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HEER RANJHA 

and other legends of the Punjab 



HEER RANJHA 

and other legends of the Punjab 



Harjeet Singh Gill 

Emeritus Professor of Semiotics 

Jawaharlal Nehru University 

Illustrated by 

Eric Vikramjeet Singh Gill 

University of Paris 




Harman Publishing House, New Delhi 
2003 



First published 2003 

ISBN 81-86622-60-8 

©H.S.Gill 

Published by 

Manjit Singh 

Harman Publishing House 

A-23, Naraina Indl. Area, Phase II 

New Delhi- 110028 

Ph. : 25895503 

Printed at 
Raj Press 
R-3, Inderpuri 
New Delhi- 110012 



for all the Punjabis 
of all religions, of all nations 



CONTENTS 



Heer Ranjha 

The Cosmology of Heer 1 

Sassi Punnu 37 

S ohni Mahin wal 7 1 

Mirza Sahiban 101 

Puran Bhagat 

The Human Condition in Puran Bhagat 129 



The Cosmology of Heer 



Introduction 

The legend of Heer and Ranjha in the poetic composition of Waris Shah 
(1710-1799) is the most popular text of millions of Punjabis, be they 
Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs, living in India, Pakistan and the various other 
countries of the globe. It is a long narrative poem of about a hundred 
thousand words and is probably the only text in any literature which is 
appreciated both by the most sophisticate literary critics and the peasants 
who have heard it sung by the village bards in the evening assemblies of 
young and old. How crystallised is this discourse may be judged from 
the fact that it is preceded by nearly a hundred other poetic versions 
since the sixteenth century. At the slightest occasion Waris indulges in 
generalisations on the nature of men, women, the affairs of this and the 
other world which has given Punjabi language a vast treasure of its 



4 The Cosmology ofHeer 

popular sayings. Within a general anthropological context of the 
medieval Punjab, Waris attempts at conceptual formulations which begin 
from the most ordinary, mundane affairs of this world and invariably 
move to a cosmological context where the highest principles of faith and 
friendship are underscored with divine sanction. But above all, it is the 
pristine purity in thought, word and deed on the one hand, and mind and 
body on the other, that mediates the conflicting ideological parameters. 



Presentation of the Text 

The ideological context of the discourse is existentially situated 
immediately by Waris Shah with an invocation to God, who made love, 
the fundamental principle of this universe, who is the first lover, ashiq, 
and Prophet himself is His first beloved, mashuq. God blesses those, 
says Waris, who live and die in love. 

We move rapidly to the nucleus of the narrative. In the prosperous 
land of Takht Hazara on the bank of river Chanab live the Ranjhas. 
Mauju is the Chief of the village. He has eight sons and two daughters. 
Dhido, the youngest son is his darling. The elder brothers and their 
wives are jealous of this over-indulgence. They are envious of Dhido but 
can do nothing in the dominating presence of the father who is respected 
and feared by all. 

As luck would have it, Mauju passes away and immediately the 
conflicting desires manifest themselves in open rivalry and downright 
exclusion of the other. As the land is divided amongst brothers, Dhido 
gets the worst tract. 

He is ridiculed by all and sundry. Spoiled by an indulgent father, 
Dhido is not able to manage his affairs. He has no interest in ploughing 
and irrigating his fields. He has lived the life of a dandy of the village. 
Playing on his flute, he moves around the assemblies of young boys and 
girls. As long as his father was alive, Dhido' s brothers were careful and 
their wives were always very affectionate. But enough is enough, the old 



The Cosmology ofHeer 5 

man is gone, and now it is a matter of rights and duties, the affairs of the 
world with all their complex intrigues. Dhido Ranjha is a complete misfit 
in this new emerging social reality 

The sisters-in-law taunt Dhido. They have been at his beck and call 
but now he will have to lead the life of an "adult", a responsible 
householder. They are no more his "maid-servants". If he cannot manage 
his affairs, let him go and marry Heer, the already legendary beauty of 
the Chief of the Sials, in the valley across the river Chanab. Depressed 
and disgusted, Dhido says farewell to his childhood, to the land of his 
parents. 

When the brothers come to know of Dhido 's departure, they hasten 
to stop him. It is one thing to maltreat your brother and quite another to 
expel him from the village, It is a matter of their "honour". What would 
the "others" say'? They request him to stay on, they plead in the name of 
their father and mother. How can one live without "brothers"? Without 
brothers no one cares for you. Without brothers there is no refuge in this 
world. Those who have brothers and their helping hands, they are strong 
and the world is afraid of them. Without brothers you are nobody. The 
world without brothers, says Waris, is a deserted world, a lonely world 
of the poor and the desolate. 

akh rdjhid bhd ki bani tere, des apna cchad sidhdr nahi 
wir ambrijdidjdh nahi, sdnu ndlfirdq de mar nahi 
bhdid bdjh na majlasd sohdid ne, ate bhdid bdjh bahdr nahi 
bhdi maran tdpcedid bhaj bdhd, bin bhdid par eh parwdr nahi 
lakh of hce bhdid wasdid di, bhdid jfwdid de kdi hdr nahi 
bhdi dhdode, bhdi usdrde ne, waris bhdid bdjho beli ydr nahi 

But Dhido Ranjha had had enough of these "brothers". He was 
betrayed ; he was insulted and rebuked by the same brothers and their 
wives. He can stand this no more. He bids them a definitive farewell and 
leaves Takht Hazara for good. 



The Cosmology ofHeer 



Ranjha, as Dhido would now be called in the rest of the narrative, 
arrives at a mosque in the evening. As the melodies of his flute echo in 
the neighbourhood, a large number of peasants gather around him. They 
are all tuned to his divine rhythms. Soon the Mullah arrives and is 
furious to see all these undesirable folks hemming around the House of 
God. It is a sacrilege. He cannot tolerate this musical indulgence at this 
hour of prayer. He orders Ranjha to get out and find some other place 
for his enjoyment. Ranjha pleads in vain. He is expelled by his brothers. 
Desolate, he came to the mosque to spend a night in peace and 
tranquillity. He will play no more on his flute. He may be pardoned. But 
the Mullah does not entertain such vagabonds. Look at his dress, how 
unconventional it is. Look at his haircut and the beard. Has he followed 
the laws of the religion? He cannot have such young fellows in the holy 
precincts of his mosque where the elders and the chiefs pray, where 
authority reigns. As t ility was never the principal characteristics of 
Ranjha, he begins to a e. Are the mosques only for the rich and the 
corrupt? This Mullah is no priest of God, his anger and lust do not 
behove a man of religion. He has transformed this sacred place into a 
den of lust and leisure. But this is not what Allah ordained and he has 
every right to pass the night. As the Mullah realises that all his 
remonstrations will serve no purpose, this young man is not going to 
leave the mosque, he gives in and lets Ranjha sleep in a corner. 

Early morning when the world begins to wake after the rest and the 
conjugal indulgences of the night, Ranjha leaves for the country of the 
Sials. It is daybreak. The farmers are heading towards their fields to 
plough their fertile lands, the sparrows leave their nests in search of food 
for their offsprings, the brides and sisters-in-law get busy with the 
churning of the milk and with the cleaning of the courtyards. The hearths 
are heated, the bread is baked. The shopkeepers open their shops, the 
village elders get ready to manage the affairs of this world, to settle 
disputes, to negotiate contracts, to bring peace and harmony to this 
prosperous land. 



The Cosmology ofHeer 7 

Ranjha arrives at the bank of the river Chanab and requests the 
boatman, Ludhan, to take him across. But Ludhan is a respectable 
businessman, he does not deal with such vagabonds who pay nothing and 
spoil his reputation. The poor fellow is again insulted. Humiliated, he 
sets himself in a corner and begins to play on his flute. The sweet 
melodies of his music attract the travellers who gather around him in 
large number. This infuriates Ludhan even more. Instead of getting rid 
of this hippy to save his business, he begins to lose his clients. When the 
travellers insist that Ranjha should be taken along with them on the boat, 
Ludhan has no choice. 

Across the river is the country of Heer, the beautiful daughter of 
Chuchak, the chief of the Sials. Heer comes to the bank of the Chanab 
with her friends to swing and dance in the valley. There is a resting bed 
which Heer uses to repose and relax. Ranjha choose^ this lovely place 
for his rest. Relaxing on Heer's bed, he contemplates on his fate and the 
ways of the world. As he was tired, he falls asleep. Meanwhile Heer 
arrives with her "sixty" friends, the young charming damsels of Jhang 
Sial. They are furious to see this transgression. How dare this young 
man rest on Heer's bed? Shouting and yelling they surround Ranjha and 
when Heer is about to thrash him with her stick, Ranjha awakes, and, 
beholden by Heer's celestial beauty and charm, says, O Dear! Heer 
smiles and surrenders! She regrets having made all this fuss. This 
archetype beautiful girl whose figure is described by Waris with all the 
metaphors and similes from the classical tradition of Oriental 
exaggeration, is taken in by this young man from Takht Hazara. Their 
eyes meet and they exchange sentiments of love and faith. Ranjha is 
sceptical, for one cannot trust women. Even the sacred texts warn that 
one should beware of the guiles of women. But Heer is not one of them. 
She invokes God, the highest principles of divine love and promises to 
be faithful under all circumstances, against all odds. She would die 
rather than relent from her faith. Nothing in this or the other world can 
stop her from being united with Ranjha. This is a word given in the 
presence of God and His chosen Five Sages. 



The Cosmology ofHeer 



kuke mar hi mar tepakar cchamka, pari admi te kcehrwan hoi 
rajhe uth ke akhid, wah sajan, hir has ke te meharbdn hoi 

mcenu babal di kasam hce rajhna we, mare maoje tud thimukh mora 
khwaja khizar te bceth ke kasam khahdi, thiwa siirjeprit di rit tor a 

To continue their romantic meetings, the lovers devise a plan. 
Ranjha is engaged as a cowherd, mahi, by the parents of Heer. Every 
morning, Ranjha takes the buffaloes and cows of the Heer household and 
wanders around in the thick forest along the banks of the river Chanab. 
Heer joins him with his mid-day meal prepared with love and affection 
and all the sweetness of sugar and honey. 

They share this meal, the churi, together, and with the blessings of 
the panj pirs, the Five Sages, their union is sanctified. Ranjha plays on 
his flute whose bewitching melodies keep the herd of buffaloes bemused. 
They graze on the green grass of the forest and run around everywhere 
like young girls. 

In this atmosphere of happiness and divine romance, everything 
seems to be in perfect harmony when an uncle of Heer, the lame Kaido, 
gets whiff of this affair. One day when Heer is away in search of water 
from the tiver, Kaido appears in the guise of a faqir and begs for 
something to eat. Ranjha is taken in by his humble supplication and 
offers Kaido, a part of the Churi that Heer had brought for him. When 
Heer returns and realises what had happened in her absence, she is 
furious. She runs after Kaido, and after a long chase, she catches hold of 
him and thrashes him with her stick, but Kaido is able to keep some of 
the bread, Ranjha had given to him. 



The Cosmology ofHeer 9 

Kaido goes to the mother of Heer and tells her that this cowherd 
Ranjha is no simple young man, he is supposed to be. He is a bandit who 
has stolen their Heer. Her daughter has ruined the honour of the family. 
It is time, Heer's parents take note of her sorties in the forest. The whole 
world knows what is going on. Only the parents are in the dark. This is 
most immoral on the part of the daughter of the Chief of the Sials. The 
best solution, proposes Kaido, would be to marry Heer off to the son of 
the Kheras, the Chiefs across the river, on the other side of the Sial 
country 

When Heer returns home in the evening, her mother, Malki, 
admonishes her. Her behaviour is most objectionable. Going around with 
this domestic servant that Ranjha is in the guise of a cowherd, is most 
degrading to the chiefs. If she knew her daughter would turn out to be 
such a whore, she would have put her in a box and thrown in a river. If 
she knew, Heer would ruin the name of their family, she would have 
pushed her in a deep well. If she knew that her daughter would indulge 
in such immoral acts, she would have had her cut into pieces. 

Heer respectfully replies that O dearest mother, she is doing no such 
thing. Her relation with Ranjha is the purest of human unions. It is 
sanctified by God himself. She has solemnly promised herself to Ranjha. 
And, as the Holy Quran itself states, there is no more serious crime than 
backing out from one's word. This promise of hers is the most sacred 
word. If she betrays Ranjha, she will be pushed into the fires of hell 
forever. 

When Heer's father, Chuchak, and her brother, Sultan, admonish 
her, the same scenario is repeated. On the one hand, the honour of the 
family is invoked, and on the other, the sanctity of love blessed by God 
Himself. Heer does not believe that she is doing anything wrong against 
the family and the tradition. She invokes the great lovers of the religious 
and the secular traditions, who died for the sake of their highest 
principles of faithfulness and fortitude, whose actions were ultimately 
approved by the authorities of Church and State. But all this is in vain, 



1 The Cosmology ofHeer 



and Heer's parents negotiate a marriage proposal with Saida, the son of 
the Chief of the Kheras. 

At the marriage ceremony, the Muslim priest, the Qazi, reminds 
Heer of the rules of the Islamic tradition. Both sides must willingly agree 
to the nuptial bond, the Nikah, in the presence of two witnesses and a 
legal negotiator. Heer replies that she is already married to Ranjha in the 
presence of the Almighty God and her witnesses are the five pirs. The 
Prophet Himself is her legal negotiator. The Qazi considers her story 
nothing but a figment of imagination. There is no religious sanction for 
such an argument. She must follow the will of her parents and the 
dictates of the sacred tradition. Heer replies that nothing is more 
sanctified and authentic than a solemn'word given to another person. She 
reminds the Qazi that according to the sacred texts those who do not 
fulfil their promise are sure to go to hell. She invokes the highest 
spiritual principles of love which are supreme, which are not abandoned 
even by God Himself. The Qazi replies that Heer's arguments have 
nothing to do with this world where the honour of the family and the 
tradition is the only criterion. None has the right to set his or her own 
rules. Heer is adamant. She is not proposing another set of rules. She has 
the highest respect for her religion and her tradition, but above all, she 
has faith in the supreme ethics of divine love and the sanctity of the 
union approved by God Himself. The Islamic tradition clearly states that 
she cannot be married against her will, against her solemn promise given 
to another man. So it is not she who is transgressing the tradition but it is 
the Qazi who is misinterpreting the sacred texts. When the Qazi threatens 
that her parents would kill her if she did not obey them and the law of 
the land, she replies that what is the point of saving her life now if for 
her broken promise she will have to suffer the fires of hell for eternity 
after her death, for even if she does not die today, she will die some 
other day. What is the good of living a life of a damned person waiting 
for the punishment of God after life? Heer's revolution, if this 
fashionable word must be used in this context, is a revolution from 
within, from within the same ideological framework in which the Qazi 
and others are operating. It is interesting to note that while others abuse 
and admonish Heer in the harshest possible terms, she never even once 



The Cosmology ofHeer 1 1 

loses her calm. Very respectfully but very resolutely she sticks to her 
principles. Against the abstract tradition of honour and faithfulness to the 
sacred laws of the land, Heer proposes equally abstract arguments of the 
sanctity of the principles of spiritual love and divine promise. In fact, 
both the antagonists are not at all interested in a marriage to one or the 
other person. For example, not even once it is argued by the parents or 
the Qazi that Saida with whom they want Heer to be married is any 
better than Ranjha who is the choice of Heer. Nor does Heer make any 
attempt at a counter argument. This is not at all the issue. What is at 
stake is the social structure perpetuated by the legality of the religious 
tradition on the one hand, and highly abstract spiritual significance 
attached to the principles of love and faith, also found in the same 
tradition, on the other. This is why time and again, Heer invokes the 
great lovers of the past whose authenticity has already been approved by 
the sacred texts. We realise now how Waris had existentially situated the 
ideological context of his narrative in the very beginning with an 
invocation to God, the first lover, the ashiq, and the Prophet, the first 
beloved, the mashuq. 

qazi sadia parhn nakah nuji, naddi wehdr bcethi, nahiboldi hce 
mce td mag rajhete di hoe chukki, mad kufar de ghceb kid toldi hce 
asd mag dargah thilid rajha, sidak sach zaban sab boldi hce 
qazi mcehkme wich ar shad kita, man shardh da hukamjejiwna i 
bad maut de nal iman hire, rakhalwich bahishat de thiwna i 
kade din iman de rahturie, jarh kufar dijio to putie na 

jerhe cchad halal haram takan, wich hdwie dozkhi sutie na 
kalbul-momni arsh allah tala, qazi arsh khudae da dha ncihi 

jitthe dhido de ishaq mukam kita, othe kheria dikoijah nahi 
eh charhi guler hce ishaq wali, jitthe hor koi char lah nahi 

jisjiwne kar iman wecha, eha kaunjo at fan ah nahi 



12 The Cosmology ofHeer 

When the Qazi realises that this girl is an absolute nuisance, and 
arguing with her is a sheer waste of time, he calls for the usual 
"witnesses" and marries her off with Saida. After all, this so-called 
condition of mutual assent is only a formality. One never really bothers 
about whether the girl and the boy are willing or not. Marriage is a 
union of the two families, it is invariably a social and economic contract 
held by the feudal virtues of honour and chastity. If every girl is allowed 
to marry the boy of her choice, what will happen to the social and 
cultural order without which no religious tradition can survive. If the 
witnesses begin to really take their witnessing seriously, the courts of the 
land can never function "smoothly". The socio-political order depends 
upon the equality of exchange. Of course, in the case of Ranjha, there is 
no problem. Heer knows that he is the son of the Chief of Takht Hazara 
even though for others he is a mere cowherd, a domestic servant. Heer is 
not transgressing the laws of the feudal order. Her high, abstract 
principles of faith and friendship fall well within the established tradition 
even if they do not suit others. But the problem is not just Heer. Heer 
can go to hell, argue the neighbourhood women with her mother, Malki, 
but this disease is contagious. They are worried about their own 
daughters. And, who knows other girls may not be so selective, may not 
be so blessed by the Five Sages. This would upset the whole world order 
as envisaged by the elders, and as perpetuated throughout the centuries. 
Hence, this slip of a girl must be stopped before it is too late. 

Apart from the caste ridden Hindu society with religious sanctions, 
the Muslim social structure in the mediaeval Punjab is also based on 
distinctions due to what may be called the professional classes. There is 
a class of cobblers, a class of goldsmiths, a class of ironsmiths, a class of 
washermen, a class of potters, a class of fishermen and so on. These 
classes have no religious barriers and probably not much economic 
discrepancies but culturally these thresholds cannot be crossed. One is 
born into a certain class and stays there forever. The problem with 
"love", ishaq, says Waris Shah, is that its "current" is too strong to be 
confined within these social slots. If the floods of the emotions of love 
are not controlled, the whole world order will be inundated, and 
obviously, this cannot be allowed. 



The Cosmology of Heer 13 



If the daughter of a cobbler runs away with the son of a goldsmith, 
the goldsmith's daughter with the son of a potter, then what will happen 
to the purity and the excellence of these professions, for according to 
Waris Shah it takes thirty-one generations to acquire finesse in art and 
techniques in each domain. The mediaeval Punjab is a world where only 
the absolutes matter, where each person is supposed to be perfect in the 
sphere of his activity. The transprofessional mobility is unheard of in this 
world of unidirectional movements. 

In the celebrated passage often sung in the assemblies of young 
girls, dolT char did mar id hir chika, the Heer of Waris cries like all girls 
are supposed to at the time of departure from their paternal home. As 
Heer is put in the palanquin, the doll, she bids farewell to her father, 
babal, that she is being taken away by the carriers against her will, 
forced by the Qazi and the relatives. She is going empty-handed, all her 
wealth is left behind, her Ranjha, her mother and father. She is desolate, 
for none would care for her Ranjha now. 

She herself is going to an unknown country of the enemies. Her fate 
is sealed. With Ranjha she had dreamt of a blissful heaven of union and 
love, she is left with separation and frustration. She begs pardon of her 
father for all the mistakes she might have made during her short stay at 
his place, under the comforting shade of his tree. She requests to be 
excused by her mother whose love and affection she can never forget. 
She prays for her brothers. She wishes them peace and prosperity and all 
the riches of the world. This world is a short-lived dream and none 
should hope for a bright future, for God's ways are unknown to man. 
We desire one thing and we get another. We build imaginative heavens 
and we are pushed into hell. Even the prophets and the great lovers of 
the past could not escape God's wrath. 

And, Heer weeps for his beloved Ranjha who is left alone in the 
care of God. The Qazi and the elders have acted like the butchers. She 
has become unconscious of everything. She did not have time even to bid 
farewell to her friends of childhood. She is leaving like a body without 



14 The Cosmology ofHeer 

its soul. The relatives, the elders and the neighbours forced her into the 
palanquin. The wealth of Ranjha is looted by the Kheras. Today, Takht 
Hazara and Jhang Sial are deserted and Rangpur is humming with 
celebrations. She cries in vain. What can a weak woman do against the 
cruelty of the strong and the powerful? She did not have time to have a 
good look at her Ranjha' s face, she was absolutely helpless. There was 
time, a separation of a day would have been unimaginable, and now, 
nobody knows what is in store for her. She hoped for one thing and got 
another, these are the ways of God. The merciless God has separated the 
lovers. She prays for Ranjha. Even though all her hopes are dashed to 
the ground, she has faith in the bounty of God, who alone knows what is 
good for His creation. 

doll charhdia maria hir chika, mcenu Ice challe babla Ice challe we 

mcenii rakh Ice babla hir akhe, doll ghat kahar ni Ice challe we 

mera akhia kadi na morda see, oh same babla kitthe gae challe we 

teri cchatar cchdwe babla rukh wagu, ghari wag musafra bceh challe we 

sanu bolid chdlid mafkarnd, pdj roz tere ghar rceh challe we 

Ice we raj hid rab nu sopia tu, asizalma de was pee challe we 

jerhe nal khial usardi sa, khane sabh umced de dhce challe we 

chare kannia meria wekh khali, asindl nahio kuj Ice challe we 

kiiri diinid te shun guman kiira, war is shah horisach kceh challe we 

But this physical separation cannot separate their souls. The Qazi, 
the parents, the brothers have strangled her but she is not going to live 
with the Khera. She will spend the rest of her life weeping for her 
Ranjha. God willing, she will one day meet him again. What an 
inauspicious day their love began? They could never foresee such cruel 
days. 

Meanwhile Heer is getting used to her new state. Along with her 
mental purity she is able to protect her physical purity with the help of 



The Cosmology ofHeer 15 

the Panj Pirs, the five divine sages, who respond to Heer's prayers and 
do not let Saida approach her bed. 

As the parents of Saida realise that Heer had had an affair before her 
marriage, they decide to not to let her return to her peke, her parents. 
This forced separation increases Heer's anguish and she laments for the 
good old days of love and the devastating present mental state of having 
to live with those she hates. To describe her state of mind Waris 
composes the traditional Bara Mah, the twelve months, during which we 
follow the seasonal variations in correspondence with the fluctuating 
spiritual agony ofHeer. 

In Saw an (July) Heer expresses her helplessness. Her parents, her 
friends forced her to marry the undesired Saida. All other girls of the 
village welcome the refreshing air and the rains on the swings while 
Heer thinks of the days when she too was happy and could enjoy the 
pleasant weather and swing for hours on the sentimental horizon of love 
for Ranjha. Sawan is the month when every girl is happy and enjoys the 
romantic elan of the seasonal change. But poor Heer cannot participate in 
this general atmosphere of gaiety. She prays to the Panj Pirs to help her 
bear this intolerable situation when her anguish knows no limits. 

In Bhdo (August) Heer cries for she cannot see her Ranjha. She 
cannot sleep at night. She cannot spin during day. In the absence of 
Ranjha, Heer spends her time weeping in seclusion, for she cannot share 
her grief with any one. There are dark clouds in the sky. For some they 
are the symbol of hope and fertility. For Heer they are threatening with 
gloom and disaster. She is a captive in the camp of the enemy. Other 
girls are busy and preoccupied with their personal and family affairs but 
Heer is restless. In this separation from Ranjha, she is in perpetual 
motions of agony and desperation. 

In Assu (September) Heer still believes God will help her. She prays 
for her union with Ranjha. This separation from her love is cutting her 
like a sharp knife. When she sees the full moon at night, she experiences 
an internal upheaval. This moonlit night, this cool atmosphere only 



16 The Cosmology of Heer 



sharpens her pangs of separation. It reminds her of the lovely moments 
her friends are enjoying. Poor Heer, she draws the lines of fate to see if 
her Ranjha would ever come to see her, to deliver her from this 
captivity. Her faith in God is not shaken and she tries to reassure herself 
that one day the things will change. God's grace would fall on her and 
there would be a reunion after all. But this moment of hope does not last 
long and she falls again into the valley of despair. 

In Kattak (October) there are floods of sorrow. In this month she 
would love to go to the woods to meet her cowherd Ranjha. Dear 
friends, when she was at her parents, she enjoyed the company of Ranjha 
during these days of mild, pleasant weather. And now here at Rangpur, 
she would rather smear her body with dust. All her friends are away, 
there is none to share her pain, her anguish. Without Ranjha there is 
none to take care of Heer. She is ill but only the medicine-man Ranjha 
can cure this disease. There is no Ranjha around, none to respond to her 
dreams. This is the season when she would have gone with Ranjha for a 
swim in the river Chanab to cool her burning desires. 

In Maghar (November) the severity of Heer's anguish deepens. She 
longs for her lost love. She assures him that she has kept herself pure in 
mind and body for Ranjha alone. For her, after the Prophet there is none 
other than Ranjha to whom she belongs, for whom she lives. She prays 
to both of them not to forsake her, for she has none other to go to. She 
hopes that maybe one day grace will descend from Jhang Sial to Rangpur 
and there will be a reunion of love after all. Ranjha is her love, her 
religion, her faith. Alternately, she prays to him and to the Almighty to 
have pity on her. Her faith will win on the day of Judgement and the 
Prophet will be her witness. 

In Poh (December) Heer shivers alone in her bed. She is all alone, 
lonely in her thoughts and her words. She has no friend. She cries in 
vain for her love. The whole night she weeps and at daybreak she leaves 
her bed as if nothing is happening. She must suffer in seclusion, for the 
world is cruel and does not care for the honesty of the lovers. Her heart 



-^ST" 




The Cosmology ofHeer 1 7 

is wounded. When nobody is around, she wipes her tears of sorrow, for 
she dare not share her secret with any neighbour. 



In Magh (January) Heer thinks of suicide. She can stand it no more, 
she would rather swallow poison than continue to lead this wretched 
state. In any case, all this youth and charm is only a dream of a few 
days. It cannot last forever. But her hope and faith do not let her die. 
Maybe he will after all come one day, perhaps God will finally relent 
and the good happy days will be there for the two lovers. She does not 
want to live any more in the mansions of her in-laws. She would rather 
be in the woods with her Ranjha. But again she relapses and realises that 
it is no use waiting for the one who would never come. It is better to rely 
on one's own faith and resolution. 

In Phagan (February) there is spring. The flowers are blossoming 
all over. There is sweet smell in the gardens. Her friends are enjoying 
the company of their lovers but Heer is not destined to such happiness, 
she is being wounded by the sword of separation. She longs to be with 
Bibi Fatima with her hair down and on her knees praying for her grace. 
And, again she is sad. She curses her mother who gave her birth, to a 
girl who is destined to suffer and spend her life in utter misery away 
from her love. There are the ones who laugh and be merry. They are 
blessed by the Almighty. And, here she is, all burnt within, in sadness 
and solitude, a cursed being, whom the Prophet has forgotten. 

In Chet (March) all the young girls and brides are dressed up for the 
festivals. They are all decked with beautiful dresses and jewellery. They 
are perfumed and their coiffures are most fascinating. They are happy 
with their lovers, they are enjoying their blissful unions. And here is 
Heer, all alone, her heart sinks, her body aches. She dare not manifest 
her agony to others, she does not want to spoil this atmosphere of grace 
and beauty and love. She is afraid. She is depressed, but above all, she is 
alone, so miserably lonely in this most happy surrounding submerged in 
romance and reunion. 



1 8 The Cosmology ofHeer 

In Waisakh (April) Heer is bewildered at her deteriorating mental 
condition. She is afraid, her miserable state is no more a secret. Even 
earth and heaven have joined hands to torture her. She consults the 
astrologers, the Brahmins, the yogis to find out if there is any hope in 
the days destined for her by God. She curses herself, the day of her 
birth, she inherited nothing but sorrows and sufferings. Maybe one day, 
all this will be an old tale, for she believes in spite of all indications of 
her stars that her faith will overcome all the divine and human obstacles, 
and, she will meet her love. 

In Jeth (May) the temperatures have shot up. The air is burning and 
Heer is consumed from within. She is burning in the fire of separation. 
The happy young married girls have descended in the cold basements 
with their husbands, and here is Heer standing on the rooftop looking for 
her love. She waits in vain. As the sun rises and rains fire on Rangpur, 
Heer is all burnt, within and without. In this tortuously burning 
atmosphere even the birds have fled leaving Heer all alone to suffer her 
agony. She prays to the Almighty, to the great Sufi saints, to come to her 
rescue, for she has never offended them. She has always followed the 
path of righteousness. 

In Har (June) it is so hot that one cannot even breathe. Heer can 
stand it no more. Her breasts are burning. She is being cooked alive like 
a fish. She feels as if she is being pierced by a sword. The pain is cruel 
and continuous. She succumbs to this terrible state. She asks travellers if 
they have any news of Ranjha, her cowherd lover. It is hot, she is 
thirsty, but Heer's thirst can be quenched only by the touch of the lips of 
Ranjha. Only he can cool her burning fire within. She thinks of Ranjha 
and she vibrates with desire. She longs to meet her love. But, alas, it is 
not to be, she must continue to suffer, forever. 

During this period of separation and utter frustration Ranjha 
meditates on his destiny and the ways of God. Poor fellow, he was 
pushed out of the country of his father only to spend years in the 
wilderness of the jungles. But even though he had to lead the life of a 
cowherd and a domestic servant of the Sials, he had had the satisfaction 



The Cosmology of Heer 19 

of the company of Heer. The reunions of course were occasional. There 
was the omnipresent uncle, Kaido, and the whole neighbourhood that 
kept an eye on the sorties of Heer. She had to be careful. Once the secret 
was out, once the parents were duly warned by the society, the going 
became rough, and, the happy romantic days were over well before 
Heer's marriage to Saida. Heer had at that time suggested that they 
should elope but Ranjha did not want to go as far as that. He probably 
still thought that a straightforward union with Heer was possible. He was 
after all the son of the Chief of Takht Hazara and there was no reason 
why he could not marry Heer in the normal process. But what he did not 
realise was that while a regularly arranged marriage between these two 
feudal households was perfectly in order, it could not be so, once he and 
Heer, both had transgressed the prevalent social order and the scheme of 
things ordained by the elders. 

Ranjha now conceives of another plan which is equally 
otherworldly. He decides to become a yogi to reach the country of 
Heer's in-laws. He arrives at the abode of Guru Bal Nath, the famous 
disciple of the great Guru Gorakh Nath. Bal Nath is pleased to see the 
handsome Ranjha all set to be initiated in the discipline of Yoga. In the 
beginning, the Guru hesitates, for Ranjha appears to be too adventurous 
a young man. He is eager, has all the initiative and inspiration but Bal 
Nath feels that the young boy may be only infatuated by the general 
allure of the yogis, he may not be able to stand the hardships and 
austerities required in the yogic Order. Above all, he is not convinced 
that such a young man can forsake the desires and passions of youth. The 
most important requirement is the avoidance of sex. For a yogi, all 
women are sisters or mothers. A yogi has not only to take the vows of 
poverty but also of chastity of mind and body. Ranjha is adamant. He is 
sincere in his wish to adhere to the discipline of yoga. He has left the 
pleasures of a feudal household. He has already renounced all wealth and 
vanity. There is nothing left for him in this world except to follow the 
path of God, and Bal Nath is the great guru who has attained salvation 
and who can save all who fall on his feet. Ranjha is here at the abode of 
the great sage in all humility. His honesty is beyond any doubt most 



20 The Cosmology ofHeer 

sincere and he would spend the rest of his worldly days in the service of 
the great master.. 

Bal Nath is pleased at this devotion and the initiation ceremony is 
prepared. After a ritual bath amidst the chanting of mantras, Ranjha's 
head is shaven. His long, beautiful, black hairs are cut off, and his ears 
are pierced for the yogic rings. His body is smeared with ashes. The 
Guru blesses Ranjha with the grace of the Almighty who has himself 
accepted him in the great yogic Order of Guru Gorakh Nath. War is Shah 
remarks that within a few moments the Guru transformed the cowherd 
peasant boy into the pure gold of a yogi. 

Once the ceremony was over, once Ranjha had satisfied himself that 
there was no going back, even Bal Nath could not withdraw his entry 
into the yogic Order and the blessings of the Almighty, he disclosed his 
real purpose. He had come to the great Guru for the gift of Heer. He 
could avoid all lust, all the worldly goods, all pleasures of this mundane 
world, even all women, but Heer was another question. He tells the 
Guru that it is long since he has surrendered himself to Heer. When he 
was young and handsome and Heer's breasts were full and she was the 
most beautiful girl, they fell in love, a sentiment and a union which was 
sanctified by the Panj Pirs, the five divine sages. It was not a worldly 
affair of sex and lust, theirs was the purest relation, a relation approved 
even by God. 

Bal Nath is angry. He feels cheated by this Jat boy but Ranjha 
immediately replies that had he known that the Guru would forbid him 
from his Heer, he would not have even pissed on this so-called holy 
abode of the yogis. He had come to the great Guru thinking that the 
divine sages were omniscient, they know all, hence his honesty and 
purity in thought will not be questioned. 

Bal Nath realises his mistake but also accepts the fact that the boy is 
sincere. He is not a hypocrite like all the other disciples around him. 
Ranjha is sincere and true to his word. His devotion and honesty cannot 
be challenged. So Bal Nath decides to accept him as his most favourite 



The Cosmology ofHeer 2 1 

disciple and prays for him for his Heer. After a long meditation when the 
Guru opens his eyes, he blesses Ranjha that his prayers have been 
accepted by God, and the Almighty Himself has bestowed on him the gift 
of Heer. 

Blessed by the great Bal Nath, the yogi Ranjha leaves for Rangpur, 
the town of Heer's in-laws. When he reaches the outskirts of the 
habitation, he meets a shepherd, ayali, who informs Ranjha of Heer's 
new situation, of the family of her husband, and how he can reach there. 
While they were so engaged in exchanging confidences, a wolf takes 
away a sheep. The shepherd is alarmed and furious but Ranjha calmly 
gets up and with one stroke lays the wolf down on the ground. The 
shepherd is duly impressed by this brave young fellow whose yogic garb 
was only deceptive. Henceforth, he becomes a willing accomplice of the 
yogi. 

Ranjha tells the shepherd how he was deceived, how Heer, his 
beloved and his right by the grace of the Panj Pirs and his own 
righteousness, was snatched away by these folks of Rangpur, the Kheras. 
Now even the great Guru, Bal Nath, has blessed him with the gift of 
Heer. His mission is thus sanctified by the highest authorities. The 
shepherd agrees with his new friend and is willing to give him all the 
secrets of the family of the Kheras. The most important is that Heer's 
sister-in-law, her husband's sister, her nanan, Saihti, is in love with a 
Bloch boy, Murad, and if handled properly, may end up being an 
accomplice in his enterprise. 

And here is Ranjha among the Kheras. The yogi encounters the 
young girls of the village on the common well where they have come to 
fetch water. They are bewitched by the handsome figure of Ranjha yogi. 
One such girl is Saihti, the sister-in-law ofHeer. 

In the now famous passage of Waris, ghar a nanan ne gal kiti... 
Saihti describes the new yogi in the town to the bewildered Heer who 
cannot believe her ears. Dear Bhabi, there is in the town a new yogi with 
beautiful ear-rings and a necklace which sets his figure off like no one 



22 The Cosmology ofHeer 

has ever been so adorned. This yogi seems to be looking for a lost jewel. 
At times he smiles, at times he weeps, it is a strange spectacle to watch 
him move around the village. He is handsome like a moon, he is tall like 
a Saru tree. Some blessed mother has given birth to such a charming 
yogi. He is in search of something which one cannot understand. O 
Heer, he is not a yogi, he must be a son of a great lord, you cannot 
imagine, his charm is incomparable, even your beauty is no match, my 
dear. He is going around in the assemblies of the girls but is not taken in 
by any. With eyes bowed, he is a picture of humility. Some say, he is 
king Bhartrhari who has renounced his kingdom. Some say, he is a thief 
of beauty, some say, he is from Jhang Sial. Some call him the yogi from 
Takht Hazara. There are all kinds of rumours but none has been able to 
understand his behaviour. But one thing is certain, this yogi is no 
ordinary fellow, he is definitely going to create some trouble. Beware, 
my friend! 

ghar a nan an ne gal kiti, bhdbi ikjogi now a aid ril 
kanni os de darshni miidra ne, gale hcekla ajab suhdid nl 
phire dhudda wich hawelia de, koi os ne lal gwdid nl 
nale gawdd te nale rowdd e, waddd os ne rag machaia ni 
hire kise rajwas da oh puttar, rup tud thi dim swdid rii 
koi dkhdiprem di chat picche, hire os ne sis mundid nl 
koi dkhdi kise de ishaq picche, bude lah ke kanparid ni 
koltakhat hazdre da eh rajhd, bdl ndth to jog Ice did ni 

And in the most feminine voice of the century, the Heer of Waris 
responds to this long awaited and yet unbelievable news. In absolute 
despair and anguish Heer weeps for her Ranjha. Poor fellow, what has 
he done for her. He got his ears pierced and head shaved to wear these 
rags. This prince of Takht Hazara is now torturing himself with yogic 
drugs. He was so young and handsome and now he has smeared himself 
with ashes. He has no father, no mother, no brother, no sister : who is 
going to stand witness for him? Accursed is the mother whose moon-like 



The Cosmology ofHeer 23 

son has covered his body with dust. Accursed is the sister whose 
prosperous brother has become a faqir. Accursed is the woman whose 
husband has renounced this world. Accursed is the girl whose handsome 
lover has pierced his ears to rot like a wretched beggar. She will spend 
the rest of her life in utter sorrow and depression. Her weeping will 
never end, her tears will never stop. Why don't these people let him 
alone? Why are they after this poor yogi? 

But she would rather not believe these rumours. She wishes that this 
yogi may be someone other than her love. She curses herself who is such 
a helpless prisoner. And, it is Ranjha after all, who has done all this, 
who has suffered all the humiliation of a faqir to be able to reach her. 
Covered in her veil, Heer weeps for her love. He was such a spoiled 
boy, was used to such comforts, and now as a yogi, as a faqir, he is 
going around the houses of others to beg for his daily bread. Poor 
fellow, what did he get out of this affair of love, laments Heer. 

muthi muthi eh gal na karo bhcena, mce ta sundia hi mar gaije m 

kiku kanparae kejiwda e, galla sundia hi jid gaije ni 

ohde dukhre rownajado sunia, muthi mit ke mce bceh gaije ni 

wekha kehre des da ohjogi, us tho kehri piari khus gaije ni 

ak, post, dhatura te bhagpike, maut os ne mul kid laije ni 

jis da mad na bap na bhcen bhal, kaun karega os di wahije ni 

jis da chan puttar swah la bcetha, matthe lekh de mekh wag gaije ni 

jis de sohne yar de kan pate, oh nadhri chaur ho gaije ni 

waris shahphire dukkha nal bharia, khalak magar kid os depaije rii 

rabjhuth na kareje hoe rajha, ta mce chaur hoi, mcenu pattia su 

ik agfiraq di sar sutti, sari ball nu mur ki phattia su 

mere waste dukhre phire scehda, loha taejibhe nal chattia su 

hoia chakpide mail khak rajhe, lah na namus nu suttia su 

bukkal wich chori chori Mr rowe, ghara liir da chae plattia su 



24 The Cosmology ofHeer 



After a series of confrontations with Saihti where Ranjha and Saihti 
both accuse each other of the falsehood they are spreading, of the 
camouflage of the yogi, who is in reality looking for his beloved, of the 
vain pride of Saihti who herself is not such a simpleton, being deeply 
involved in an affair with the Bloch merchant boy, Murad, Ranjha 
reaches the guarded precincts of Heer and begs alms in the name of his 
Guru, Bal Nath. Heer is emotionally perplexed, she does not know how 
to respond. Ranjha pleads that he is the true disciple of Bal Nath. His 
Guru has bestowed on him spiritual powers with which he can cure all 
diseases, change destinies, administer the impossible, and unite old 
lovers. 

Heer replies. O Yogi, you are telling lies, there is none to remove 
the misfortune, none to bring back old friends. She would offer her own 
skin for his shoes who can perform such a miracle, who can cure the 
disease of her heart. God has forsaken those who indulge in amorous 
plays, who yearn for their loves. I would sacrifice everything, my body, 
my life for any person who can alter these ways of God. The dead and 
the departed can never meet again. This is the Order of the Almighty. A 
crow snatches away the game from an eagle, I wonder, what he thinks of 
it, how he cries for the lost treasure. The world makes fun of those, with 
fantasies of unions, who are wounded in love. The field of a peasant is 
on fire, nobody is going to extinguish it. I will lit lamps of ghee, and 
distribute sweet churi if ever I get the news of my love. 

The yogi offers his blessings. God is great and one should have 
patience. For the true lovers, for the honest and the pure, the Guru is 
always ready to perform miracles. There is no dearth of bounty in the 
House of the Almighty. He has finally blessed their union and this is no 
occasion of remonstrations or complaints. They should rejoice in the 
blessings of the Guru whose yoga has enabled him to reach his love. 



The Cosmology of Beer 25 

hir dkhidjogidjhuth dkhe, kaun ruthre ydr manaoda e 
asd koi na ditthd dhud thakki, jehrd gid nu mor lidodd e 
sdde cham didjuttid kare koi, jehrd jio da rog gwdodd e 
bhald das khd chin wicchunid nu, kado rab sachd ghari lidodd e 
mauld moe te wicchre kaun mele, cewejiurd lok waldodd e 
ik bdj to kdo ne kuj khohi, wekhd chup hce ke kurldodd e 
dukkhd wdlid nu galld sukh did, kissejorjahdn sundodd e 
ikjat de khet nu ag laggi, wekhd an ke kado bujhdodd e 
dewd churid ghio de bdl diwe, waris shdhje sund mce dwdd e 

One day when Ranjha comes to their house on his daily rounds, 
Saihti is furious and breaks the begging bowl of Ranjha who curses her 
with eternal separation from her love. He is after all the yogi of the 
Order of Bal Nath whose word is law in this profane world. Saihti is 
scared. She realises her mistake of having annoyed the divine sage and 
pleads : gid bhaj takdir de ndl thutha, Iceja satho qimat mat di we ... It is 
by chance that your bowl is broken, she is ready to pay for it. The yogi 
should have patience with ordinary householders. They are ever on the 
wrong path, only the yogis can alter the destinies of the poor human 
beings. But the yogi is adamant. Saihti is a hypocrite. She is playing all 
these tricks to hide her own affairs, her own intrigues. She cannot take 
lightly the wrath of a yogi. The accusing words of wicked women like 
Saihti cut very deep. These wounds are not easily healed. She must 
repent. She must surrender to the will of the yogi. In it is her salvation, 
and of course, the salvation of all, also of Heer and Ranjha. 

gid bhaj takdir de ndl thutha, Iceja satho kimat mat di we 
takdir alldh di nu kaun more, takdir pahdrd nu katdi we 
ddam hawd nu kadh bahishat wicho, takdir zamin te sat di we 
sulemdn jhokhe bhath mdcchid de, takhat chdhr takdir plat di we 



26 The Cosmology ofHeer 



The yogi Ranjha settles down in the woods on the outskirts of the 
village where like a true medicine-man he heels the physical and spiritual 
diseases of the populace. Young boys and girls go to him for potions of 
love, the estranged women for talismans to capture their paramours, the 
daughters and sisters-in-law to resolve their disputes with the 
disciplinarian mothers and mothers-in-law. 

Heer and Saihti are now friends with the common aim of reaching 
their lovers, of transgressing the laws of the householders. One day Heer 
pretends to have been stung by a "snake" and Saihti pleads that only the 
yogi of the black garden can cure her. The parents relent and both the 
girls arrive at the garden of paradise. And, Heer finally meets her lover 
in this wilderness of nature, in this pleasure house of God. Waris 
celebrates their most voluptuous union, the most rhythmic meeting of the 
two hearts in love who had been separated for such a long time, who had 
suffered at the hands of both anthropology and cosmology, and who are 
now being consumed by the most violent current of love, desire and 
passion. 

raj ha shauq de nal uth khara ho id, wao ishaq di do ha nu wag gai 
wao wag gai hirs bhaj gai, dil lag gai khabar jag gai 
yar nu yar j add an milia, hirs doha di adro bhaj gai 
ik dhua dhukhda ijogire da, utto phuk ke cchokri ag gai 
dowe mast didar wichjhulde san, zcehar rag di dha rag gal. 
rajha shauq de nal didar karda, gal hijar di dur alag gai 
yar yar da bag wich mel hoia, gal am mashhur ho jag gai 
yarojhulli adherri ishaq wall, ud sharm hya dipag gai 
waris tutia nu rabjorda e, wekho kamle nupari lag gai 

Meanwhile these voluptuous reunions of the lovers stung by the 
snake continue in the black garden, Ranjha helps Saihti to run away with 



The Cosmology ofHeer 27 

Murad, and before the next daybreak, Heer and Ranjha also elope after a 
long night of celebration of their divine and profane love and lust. . . 

After this the thread of the narrative is lost in confusion. There are 
several versions. One of the accounts states that Saida, Heer's husband, 
and his brother catch up with the lovers and they are brought to the court 
of the prince of that domain. The Adli Raja, the just king, awards Heer 
to Ranjha and they return to Takht Hazara to live happily ever after. 

Another version states that when Saida and company threaten to take 
away Heer, she swallows poison and dies. Ranjha cannot stand it any 
more and grief-stricken he also collapses on the corpse of Heer and they 
are buried together in the same tomb to be united forever. 

It is interesting to note here, however, that while the ends of other 
romantic legends of the region are so important, they represent the 
climax of the narratives, and the poets exaggerate that moment to the 
extreme, the end of Heer Ranjha tale is never taken seriously in any 
poetic composition. 



Mediatory Prospections 

The narrative of Heer operates at two levels of mediatory prospections : 
the anthropological level and the cosmological level. At the 
anthropological level, we encounter the cultural infrastructure of 
brothers' jealousies, the disputes about ancestral property, the whole 
kinship system of the mediaeval Punjab, the feudal, social and economic 
structure with its intrigues and its exploitations. At the cosmological 
level, we encounter the same dramatis personae circumventing the 
realities of profane life with the sanctions of divine authority where all 
physical, social and economic factors pass through the sieve of spiritual 
crystallisation. Even religion which is the main undercurrent of the 
whole narrative is subjected to these pulls in different directions. On the 
one hand, we have the religious parameters which almost coincide with 
the anthropological cultural scheme of things, and on the other, we are 



28 The Cosmology ofHeer 

reminded of the higher, more sanctified references to the fundamental 
truths which surpass and transgress all thresholds of space and time. But 
it is interesting to note that even though these two parameters are in 
contradistinction with each other, one cannot operate without the 
presence of the other. They are bound in an obligatory framework of 
conceptual oppositions which derive their beings from each other. This 
text deals with an empirical reality which must be understood within a 
conceptual framework that mediates between the two planes of 
anthropological and cosmological spatial translocation. 

When there is a dispute between brothers, Ranjha is not interested in 
any settlement through the mediation of the elders of the village, the 
normal procedure in such cases. He simply decides to leave his native 
place. When the sisters-in-law and their husbands, Ranjha 's brothers, 
come to know of this drastic action, they invoke the cultural importance 
of the unity of brothers, their joint strength, their solitary weakness, 
their union, their solidarity, but Ranjha does not operate at this level of 
universal, fundamental values of cultural or anthropological truth. His 
solution is otherworldly, he simply quits, for he knows that whatever 
may be the proposal of his brothers, it will bind him to the norms of the 
village life. He is not willing for any compromise. He must have either 
all or nothing. When his father was alive, he was not treated like one of 
his several sons, it was a special indulgence. But as long as the feudal 
lord was alive, the sons, Ranjha 's brothers, dared not question his 
authority or his dispensation. There was no question of equality. It was 
his master's voice that mattered. And, Ranjha was obviously the chosen 
one, the one who was supposed to, or this is what Ranjha thought, 
inherit his wealth and authority. Interestingly, even this preference for 
Ranjha had already altered the normal cultural behaviour, for generally it 
is the eldest son who is supposed to continue the feudal estate, and 
Ranjha was the youngest son of his father. The old lord had already 
ignored the cultural norms of his society. Ranjha 's brothers are jealous 
but they are helpless before the old man. When they and their wives 
decide to assert, Ranjha does not resist, he simply gives in, renounces 
all, and, quits. But the brothers had not bargained for such a solution. 
Even though materially they will benefit, they will now get all the land 



The Cosmology ofHeer 29 

that belongs to Ranjha, they never wanted this undeserved share, for they 
operate within a cultural context where this is not permissible. One can 
quarrel with one's brother but one can never exile him. This is socially 
not acceptable. This is why they forget their dispute and invoke the 
highest principles of brotherly love and solidarity. 

If the solution to the feudal dispute proposed by Ranjha is 
cosmological, his brothers counteract with equally powerful argument of 
anthropological truth. But this is not to be. Cosmology must overcome 
all obstacles of cultural anthropology. 

On his way to the country of Heer, Ranjha encounters the priest of 
the mosque where he wants to spend a night and the boatman to cross the 
river. In both cases, he faces the same problem. Neither the priest nor 
the boatman welcome such vagabonds, such wordly irresponsible fellows 
who do not follow the normal parameters of culture. Instead of justifying 
in his own cultural terms, which was both legitimate and possible, 
Ranjha simply challenges their relation with God and Honesty, the two 
levels at which they are supposed to operate. The anthropological 
reasoning is opposed to cosmological logic. When Heer proposes a 
disguise of a cowherd, Ranjha accepts willingly, for this is the most 
ambiguous existence. To be cowherd of a feudal household is a normal 
occupation. So naturally, nobody has any suspicion. On the other hand, 
for Ranjha it does not matter. First of all, even anthropologically it is not 
in natural correspondence of the scheme of things of this world. Ranjha 
is the son of the Chief of Takht Hazara. He cannot be engaged as a 
cowherd in another equally important feudal household. Moreover, it is 
not even because Ranjha has been thrown out of his village and it is the 
economic compulsion that forces such a solution. As such, Ranjha is 
both is and not a cowherd. It is a cosmology intertwined with 
anthropology. Even their meetings in the woods outside the village 
where on the bank of the river Chanab, Ranjha grazes the buffaloes and 
cows of Heer, there is a geographical space which is both in 
correspondence with the profane village life and with the cosmological 
mental space which clearly presents a threshold of anthropological 
domain that is being constantly transgressed. It is interesting to note that 



30 The Cosmology ofHeer 



not only there is a certain interlinkage between the profane and the 
spiritual, the anthropological and cosmological domains almost coincide. 
And, this coincidence, of course, is most deceptive, even at times, 
indistinguishable which gives rise to a kind of ambiguity superimposed 
on the whole narrative. 

The existential condition of Heer is quite different. She has a much 
better understanding and a much stronger hold over both anthropological 
and cosmological planes. There is a qualitative difference. Heer remains 
squarely within the normal cultural parameter. As a Punjabi girl, she is 
confined to the family and home, hence there is no question of going 
beyond or fighting its basic tenets. For Punjabi boys, it is different, even 
normally they are not expected to be such an integral part of the social 
structure. Their role is always peripheral. The social and cultural values 
are upheld primarily by the girls. The boys just fit in this overall 
structure but there is no conscious, deliberate effort on their part. Heer, 
as such, is closer to the cultural reality, closer to the bonds of family and 
religion. Even when all the possibilities are exhausted, all the doors are 
shut, she only invokes the cosmological principles but she succumbs to 
the ways of the world all the same. When their relation is no more a 
secret, when her mother and brother threaten her, castigate her, abuse 
her, she is most respectful. She tries to convince them with the usual 
arguments of love and honesty, faith and fortitude. When all this fails, 
she gives real historical evidence of the lovers of yonder days. Even 
when she is forced to sit in the wedding palanquin, she remembers the 
good old days she spent in affection and endearment at home, with her 
father, with her mother. She leaves the home of her parents, her peke, 
like any Punjabi girl would. 

Heer's disputation with the Qazi, the priest, is also of the same 
order. The Qazi seems to have reduced religion to the most ordinary 
rules of village life. Heer does not challenge his arguments. She only 
finds them ridiculous. She argues with the same logic. She reminds the 
Qazi that she cannot be married against her own will. This is the most 
fundamental principle of Islam. And, the witnesses, the Qazi calls, have 
to testify of her having accepted the contract that the religious ceremony 



The Cosmology ofHeer 3 1 



nikah is supposed to be. This is simple anthropological logic. When 
nothing works, no reason moves the obdurate Qazi, Heer invokes the 
Prophet Himself and the universal principles of truth and love. 
Cosmology in the case of Heer is the last resort but once she has decided 
to force the resolution, there is no going back. The Qazi, the parents, the 
brothers can do whatever they like, she is a member of their social group 
and she understands the compulsions of the household and the family but 
neither anthropological nor cosmological counter arguments can weaken 
her resolve. She will physically submit to their will but she will never 
mentally accept their verdict. And, when all is lost, she invokes the Panj 
Pirs, the five divine sages, to protect her chastity in body and spirit, and 
obviously they come to her rescue. 

One may conceptually perceive the two aspects of Heer 
phenomenon : Heer before marriage, the daughter of a chieftain, the 
sister of brave brothers, the spoiled child of a feudal household, an 
active and assertive Heer who takes all risks, who challenges all, and 
Heer after marriage, a bride within feudal constraints, a daughter and a 
sister-in-law who must submit to others' authority, a submissive and 
weak woman who can only weep or pray, lament or think of good old 
days and be more and more depressed and helpless. 

Until her forced wedding, all the initiatives are taken by Heer. It is 
she who proposes to Ranjha to be her cowherd. She goes out to see him 
in the woods. Challenged by her wicked uncle, Kaido, she resolutely 
faces his anger. When parents question her behaviour, her sorties with 
Ranjha, she continues to advance one argument after another. It is 
another matter that they all fail. The disputation with the Qazi is most 
illuminating. She has a sharp wit, she is resolute, she has logic, and she 
knows the fundamental principles of religion. She is not only assertive, 
she is also a brilliant dialectician. It is within the parameters of Islam that 
she logically defeats the Qazi. She is not at all transgressing the 
threshold set by the Prophet, it is the Qazi, on the other hand, who is not 
true to his own mission of a priest of God. She never challenges the 
tenets of any parameter, sacred or secular, she always measures swords 
at the level of truth and logic. The only difference is that while Heer is 



32 The Cosmology ofHeer 

absolutist, she wants everyone to believe in what they profess, others 
always opt for a conciliatory, middle path for fear of disturbing the 
normal social order rather than insisting on what should be the righteous 
path. As such, Heer's revolution, if this term is to be used at all, is a 
revolution from within. She remains well within the framework of 
anthropological rules set by the society. She only insists on their 
adherence to the logical end. 

As a bride at her in-laws, Heer is a different person. She is lonely, 
she is sad, she is depressed. She is no more active or assertive. Her only 
recourse now is to pray to the divine forces to come to her rescue, for 
she has never betrayed them. She was always true to their principles. If 
she gave herself to Ranjha, her love for him was sanctified, pure and 
honest. There is nothing she can do against her husband, her 
sister-in-law, her mother-in-law and all the social guardians of a bride, 
but she can pray to God, she can reach the One who was always most 
dear to him. And, naturally, the divine sages are with her. Heer's purity 
in thought and deed, mind and body, is preserved. And, now all she can 
do is wait for her love. 

And when the yogi Ranjha does arrive with torn ears, shaved head, 
and body smeared with ashes, we hear the most feminine voice of the 
Middle Ages. It is as a mother, a sister, a bride, a beloved - all rolled in 
one being that Heer weeps for her Ranjha who has renounced all, who 
has tortured his mind and body to become a yogi, to descend to the level 
of a beggar sadhu to meet his love. Heer weeps, cries, laments at this 
existential condition of her lover She invokes an accursed mother, an 
accursed sister, an accursed bride, an accursed beloved who have lost 
their son, brother, husband, lover to the yogic Order, to the group of 
mendicants whose only earthly possession is their begging bowl, who 
must suffer heat and cold, thirst and hunger, always on the move from 
one wilderness to another. 

Ranjha is made of another clay. When there was trouble at home, 
he simply decided to leave. Even with the priest of the mosque and the 
boatman, he had but a very minor confrontation. When he meets Heer 



The Cosmology ofHeer 33 

and they fall in love with each other, it is Heer who takes all the 
initiatives. It is she who suggests that he should become their cowherd. 
She convinces her father and thereafter Ranjha simply follows Heer until 
her marriage. When Heer realised that she will be forced to marry Saida, 
she suggests that they should elope but Ranjha is not very enthusiastic. 
He tells Heer that love in deception is no love and they must not lead the 
life of dishonesty and falsehood. 

But all this changes when Heer gets married and Ranjha is separated 
from his love. This prolonged separation transforms a lazy and spoiled 
Ranjha into an assertive, active lover who must plan and execute his 
schemes with absolute accuracy and maximum risk, for going to meet 
Heer at her in-laws involves a dangerous adventure in that era of feudal 
mediaeval Punjab. He decides to become a yogi and when Bal Nath is 
reluctant, he employs all the strength of his arguments and his sincerity 
to convince the great Guru. When Heer was active and assertive, Ranjha 
showed no sign of an active lover. When Heer was helpless and confined 
to the house of her in-laws, his existential condition changes and he is 
transformed into a resolute man. 

His confrontations with the yogis, the shepherd outside Heer's 
village and with Saihti, the sister-in-law, all show how Ranjha slowly 
acquires a new being, a new responsibility to change this world, this 
world where lovers cannot meet, where the prisoner brides are confined 
to the dungeons of their in-laws. 

And finally the voluptuous union in the kala bagh, the black 
garden, the black forest, the garden of Eden and the snake. The 
semiological contours are consistent all the way through. Ranjha crosses 
the river to reach the country of Heer. He becomes a cowherd and they 
meet in the woods on the bank of the river Chanab, and now, the black 
forest ; the river, the woods and the forest on the one hand, and the 
cowherd and the yogi on the other. The village, the society, the religion, 
all function within an anthropological context. The river and the forest 
represent both a correspondence and a threshold to be crossed. The 



34 The Cosmology ofHeer 



anthropological world is never transgressed, it is always circumvented. 
The lovers simply go beyond the limits set by the social structure. 

This is not even an opposition of nature and culture in the ordinary 
sense of the term. The black forest is outside the village but as there can 
be no village without a forest, they are in a complementary relationship. 
The routine conjugal life of the householders continues and the lovers 
continue to meet in the garden of Eden. The union in the black forest is 
not a sexual reproductive union, it is a voluptuous celebration, even a 
violent voluptuous celebration as has already been noted in the earlier 
section. It is almost a confrontation of two cosmological beings separated 
by anthropological norms. Hence, the celebration is cosmological in 
every sense of the term. This is an extremely important threshold in the 
narrative of Heer, for after this voluptuous upheaval, the story nearly 
ends. What happens later is not of much importance. And, this is exactly 
the reason why the end of this narrative is not very clear but nobody 
really bothers. This voluptuous cosmic celebration is really the climax. 

This also explains the existential status of Ranjha as a cowherd and 
as a yogi. As the son of the chief of Takht Hazara in the guise of a 
cowherd, Ranjha is and is not a cowherd. So is the case at Rangpur. 
Normally, the relation between the householder and the yogi is that the 
householder is stationary, the village where he lives has a fixed locale 
and even though the yogi depends upon the village and the householder 
for his living, he keeps on moving, but Ranjha is not a yogi who 
wanders from one place to another. He is a yogi only for Heer and for 
Rangpur. Hence, he is not a true yogi. On the other hand, a yogi is 
involved in the anthropological structure of the society, for he plays a 
complementary role in the whole scheme of rituals which must move 
within the anthropological and cosmological space. This space is not 
respected by Ranjha. He is not at all interested in what goes on in this 
interlinkage. His mission is purely cosmological. He is neither 
complementing the social fabric of the village nor transgressing it. He 
simply sets up another parameter where he meets his beloved stung by 
the snake of love in the black forest, which is in fact not even a forest, 
for it no more functions as a link between the village and the outside 



The Cosmology of Heer 35 

world. Both Ranjha as a yogi and the black forest as a lien of voluptuous 
cosmic celebration represent exactly their opposite. There is a definite 
conceptual divide that defines the threshold they cross, a threshold that 
corresponds with a movement from the worldly to the inner depths of 
human predicament, the predicament of a non-being and being. Going to 
the black forest for Heer is not going from village to the garden or going 
from culture to nature. This journey of Heer from the house of her 
in-laws where she is a prisoner, forced to marry Saida against her will, 
and according to her, the will of God, to the black forest where she 
meets yogi Ranjha, her love, is a journey from the existential condition 
of a non-being to the realisation of her cosmological being, for after this 
cosmic celebration, Heer and Ranjha simply disappear. They are 
dissolved in the unknown. This is why the rest of the narrative loses all 
semiological signification. 



SASSI 
PUNNU 



salutations to the Almighty 

who reigns over the whole universe 

whose sovereignty is writ large 

over oceans and mountains 

over earths and skies 

none can reach His limits 

His horizons are beyond the grasp 

of the wisest among men 

but with love and devotion 

with endearment and affection 

with meditation and reflection 

one acquires His grace 

His benediction ! 



40 Sassi — Punnu 



the famous tale of Sassi and Punnu 

of divine love and sublime beauty 

is known to young and old 

to all those who dream of love and union 

who yearn for the forbidden 

who imagine the unimaginable 

who dare to cross the threshold 

of traditional taboos 

of cultures and customs 

to meet their love 

in life, in death ! 



the city of Bhambor 

was known for its splendour 

and the mighty ruler, Adam Jam 

whose dominion was surcharged 

with peace and prosperity 

with the beautiful gardens and palaces 

with charm and grace 

the princes and ministers 

the wise men and saints 

adorned the court of 

the benevolent ruler ! 



Sassi-Punnu 41 



but something was amiss 

amongst all this splendour and bounty 

beauty and beatitude 

there was sadness 

the air was calm and quiet 

the atmosphere was laden with heavy burdens 

the king had no child 

to play in his gardens 

to bring charm to the sterile nature 

to render grandeur to the forlorn palace ! 



the whole nation prayed for new life 

the saints and faqirs were loaded with gifts 

the poor were feasted 

the grace of the Almighty was sought 

to bring light in the darkness of the kingdom 

to preserve the tradition and the lineage 

of the noble king ! 



42 Sassi - Piinnu 



Allah is great 

there is no dearth in the House of the Master 

after long prayers and the blessings of the faqirs 

there was hope 

the good tidings spread over the entire kingdom 

the queen was expecting a child ! 



on the appointed hour 

on the destined moment 

a child was born 

the girl was so beautiful 

so splendid 

the midwives named her Sassi 

the splendour of the sun 

the sublimity of nature 

the king was happy 

the ministers and the courtesans 

brought gifts of gold and silver 

to welcome the light of the dominion 

to celebrate the love of the Lord ! 



Sassi - Punnu 43 



the astrologers were called 

to predict the future of the child 

to delineate the path of her destiny ! 



as the wise men reflected 

on the hour of her birth 

as the chastened old wisdom 

unfolded its secrets 

there was silence 

there was gloom all over 

the noble king confronted the sages 

with their truth 

with their bitter truth 

of unhappy days ahead ! 



Sassi the sublime 

was destined to lead the life of love and anguish 

of deception and desperation 

she would be exhausted on the sand dunes 

following her love 

in absolute helplessness 

in the unbearable heat of the blazing sun ! 



44 Sassi - Pun mi 



suddenly the celebrations were transformed into serenity 

the happy hearts began to mourn 

the light of love led to the darkness of the solitude 

there was none to console the desolate sovereign 

none to offer a soothing word 

a word of hope and harmony ! 



Sassi could no more embellish 

the palace of the king 

she had no more place 

in the splendour of the kingdom 

the child was bundled in a boat 

laden with gold and silver 

to sail to the unknown quarters 

to face the most horrifying destiny ! 



for days and nights 

in light and darkness 

through ferocious jungles 

through deserted places 

the cursed boat continued to sail 

to her predicted destination ! 



Sassi-Punnu 45 



as chance would have it 

a washerman saw the beautiful canoe 

with splendid flags 

fluttering in desolation 

with awe and caution 

he approached the vessel 

and brought home the child 

to his poor dwellings ! 



the couple had no offspring 
they were poor, honest people 
who lived in the fear of God 
who led a life of honesty and prayer 



they were happy 

Allah had finally blessed them 

with the most beautiful girl that there ever was 

the splendour of the sun 

the sublimity of the moon ! 



46 Sassi - Punnu 



the gold and silver in the boat 

was enough to build a new house 

not a palace befitting 

the princess Sassi 

but a beautiful house all the same 

where the child could grow 

into a young girl 

where she could play with her friends 

in the gardens and the wilderness 

in the lap of nature 

in the serenity of piety and prayers ! 



Sassi grew into the most beautiful girl of the dominion 

the wealth that her father 

the miserable king 

had laden the cursed boat with 

was enough for her to lead the life of a princess 

there were servants to follow her every gesture 

there were tutors to educate her 

in the mysteries of life 

she had all the charm 

and the wisdom of a goddess 

she dreamt of a life 

beyond the confines of a household 

beyond the horizons of this mundane world 

she lived in a universe 

of dreams and dangers 

of unknown adventures 

of unseen adversities ! 



Sassi - Punnu 47 



that the daughter of the poor washerman, Attah 

had unparalleled beauty, charm and grace 

was soon the talk of the town 

the news spread throughout the kingdom 

princes and noblemen sought her hand 

the king himself was informed 

of the prettiest of girls 

the ministers advised for a suitable match ! 



when Attah showed the medallion 

with the inscription of royalty 

the king was shocked 

the courtesans were stunned 

the truth 

the bitter truth 

of Sassi 's origins 

was too harsh to swallow 

the inevitable destiny 

pierced through the hardest of hearts 

the miserable sovereign 

pleaded for a reunion 

with his lost daughter 

with his forgotten jewel ! 



48 Sassi - Piinnu 



but Sassi was in no mood 

to forgive her irresponsible father 

to forget his surrender 

to the cruel astrologers 

to the dictates of the merciless courtesans 

she resolutely refused 

to abandon her foster parents 

who had brought her up 

with love and affection 

with care and attention ! 



a king's daughter she certainly was 

her noble lineage 

was there for all to see and admire 

but she was abandoned 

for no fault of hers 

to please the customs of the country 

to follow the orders of her destiny 

she was a princess 

she will remain a princess 

in word and deed 

in thought and action 

she will challenge the onslaught of her fate 

she will face the ordeals of men and manners ! 



Sassi - Punnu 49 



the city of Bhambor 

was on the crossroads of the travelers 

of merchants of far away lands 

many a prince had visited 

this famous city of gardens and palaces 

of the wonders of the world 

often there were exhibits 

by the famous painters 

of Kabul and Isphahan 

from the capitals of the great kingdoms of the East ! 



as Sassi grew 

in the most cultured atmosphere 

she was a great connoisseur 

of arts and letters 

her tutors had surcharged their young pupil 

with the wisdom of the East 

with the arts of the great masters 

with the philosophies of renowned sages ! 



50 Sassi-Punnu 



the young girl surpassed all her companions 

in beauty and intellect 

in learning and grace 

her imagination led her to the farthest lands 

to the mysterious universes 

where body and spirit 

thoughts and fancies 

mingled with the sublime reflections 

fused with the most beautiful horizons ! 



in one of her sorties 

in an exhibit organised by the Chief of the town 

she saw a painting 

of the most handsome prince 

of the legendary dominion 

of Kecham in the East 

the prince Punnu 

was the idol of the artists 

his figure, his demeanour 

his gait, his poise 

enchanted all young and old 

the prettiest of the girls 

the fairies of the divine spheres 

yearned for his love ! 



Sassi - Punnu 5 1 



no wonder Sassi was taken in 

she dreamt of Punnu 

the prince of her fancies 

the ideal of her universe 

she dreamt of love and romance 

of the most sublime union 

of faith and fortitude 

of heavenly bliss 

of everlasting happiness ! 



she was possessed by the Idea 

by the Concept, by the Image 

of which she knew nothing 

but her learning and leanings 

had transcended the empirical 

the real of this world 

as a child she was pushed into a wild river 

that led no where 

that had no destination 

she was an unreal child 

of an unreal world 

there were nothing but phantoms on her horizon 

there were always clouds and mists 

around her body and spirit 

she was lost in meditation 

in reflection 

in the uncertain hopes of an unknown future ! 



52 Sassi - Punnu 



day and night 

in sleep and awakening 

she dreamt of Punnu 

she constituted an ephemeral universe 

of love and union 

of affection and endearment 

of anguish and empathy 

her heart was desolate 

her body experienced 

the most excruciating pains of separation 

the princess was in love ! 



if Punnu was the most handsome prince 

Sassi was the most beautiful princess 

the artists exchanged the portraits of the couple 

the young and wild prince 

of the fabled land of Kecham 

was known for his bravery and adventures 

the jewel of his parents 

the darling of his dominion 

he had traversed the intractable jungles 

to hunt the most ferocious beasts 

prince of all he swayed 

he was the master of his dominion ! 



Sassi-Pimnu 53 



all this changed 

when he was shown the portrait of Sassi 

of the princess 

of the city of splendid palaces 

of the princess 

whose beauty and grace 

surpassed all earthly descriptions 

who yearned to see her prince charming ! 



in absolute desperation 

the restless prince 

set out to the city of Sassi 

the caravan of hundreds of camels 

travelled for days, for nights 

for weeks 

to reach the city of Bhambor 

to visit the beautiful gardens of the splendid kingdom ! 



54 Sassi - Punnn 



it was a hazardous journey 

traversing mountains and deserts 

ferocious jungles and the bandits of the Middle Ages 

the companions of the prince 

brought with them 

the precious shawls and carpets 

of their rich kingdom 

of the land of a thousand and one tales ! 



the travelers camped on the bank of the river 

there were tents and canopies all over 

the floors were covered with Persian carpets 

the interiors were decorated with the finest silks 

gardens were laid 

fountains sprung every where 

a whole new city came into being 

a city of joy and romance 

of love and happiness ! 



Sassi-Punnu 55 



the noblemen and princes 

of the two kingdoms 

exchanged gifts of their respective dominions 

their arts and crafts 

were displayed for all to see 

for all to admire the sublimity of the talents 

of the artists of their great cultures 

the jugglers and the magicians 

showed their excellence 

in all kinds of tricks 

the whole populace was overjoyed 

at this most wonderful spectacle ! 



amongst all these celebrations 

and festivities 

Sassi and Punnu met for the first time 

their encounter transcended 

all their expectations 

it led to the most sublime union 

to the most voluptuous embrace 

the eternal woman 

and the eternal man 

the eternal princess 

and the eternal prince 

enacted the eternal fairy tale 



56 Sassi — Punmi 



they were burning with desire since long 

they kissed and hugged 

and made love 

the eternal love of the union of body and soul 

their hearts mingled 

with the longings of the lovers of yonder days 

of the thousand and one tales ! 



the caravan of the prince 

and his attendants 

were the most handsome men of Kecham 

the brave warriors 

they had conquered many a fort 

the agile hunters 

they had laid down 

the most ferocious beasts of the jungles 

the accomplished athletes 

they displayed their strength and art 

in the vast play-fields of Bhambor ! 



Sassi-Punmi 57 



amongst these brave and handsome folks 

the atmosphere was changed 

the princess and her attendants 

the most beautiful damsels of Bhambor 

surcharged the camp with romance and luxuries 

with the feasts of nobility 

the hunters brought games to roast 

the taverns poured the finest wines 

the tents resounded with the steps 

of the dancing girls 

the air reverberated 

with the melodies of the musicians ! 



the prince and the princess 

lived in a universe of dreams 

they were intoxicated with 

the headiest wine of love 

their bodies and souls 

were united for ever 

their heart beats 

resounded with the music of heavens 

with the blessings of the Almighty ! 



58 Sassi-Punnu 



but alas there were 

black tongues and evil eyes all over 

jealousy is the deadliest poison 

that has ruined many a kingdom 

this most sublime spectacle 

this most romantic union 

could not be tolerated 

could not be allowed to continue for ever ! 



the king, the father of Punnu 

was informed of the indulgence of the prince 

of the dalliance and the dancing 

in the radiant camp of Bhambor 

on the bank of the cursed river 

the feasts, the wines 

the celebrations of love and romance 

were supposed to spoil the handsome prince 

they were opposed to his duties 

of a prince and a ruler 

he could not stay for ever 

in a foreign land 

in the country of old foes ! 



Sassi - Putmu 59 



the ministers, the courtesans 

counseled the king 

to bring back the prince 

to attend to his dominion 

to stay within the bounds of his culture 

his religion, his race ! 



the orders of the king were immediately executed 

the dancing girls were bribed 

they poured the drugged liquor 

in the golden cups of Sassi and Punnu 

intoxicated, unconscious 

the two lovers lay in each other's arms 

destiny had its toll 

the cruel fate caught up 

with the rising ambitions 

dreams and delusions 

were fused in the hazy mist 

of unknown horizons 

on unknowable horizons ! 



60 Sassi - Pan mi 



Punnu was snatched from the arms of his love 

unconscious he did not know 

how the two hearts were being torn apart 

how the dream of the lovers 

was being shattered 

how the universe of love and faith 

was being pushed into oblivion 

the dark hour 

of merciless fate had arrived 

the eternity of desire 

of innocent lovers 

had all but vanished 

from the horizon of hope and happiness ! 



bundled on the fastest camel of the caravan 

Punnu was rushed to his dominion 

fastened to the royal chair 

the prisoner was traversing the deserted country 

the gardens, the celebrations 

the dances, the wines 

the kisses of love and longings 

were all left behind ! 



Sassi - Punnu 6 1 



when Sassi was awakened by her friends 

she could not believe her eyes 

the caravan 

the gardens 

the camps of pleasure were all gone 

her love had deserted her 

at the height of her bliss 

at the climax of her ecstasy 

the unreal child 

of the unreal universe 

had but a dream of reality 

a moment of sublimity 

an interval of serenity 

the conflict 

the confusion 

the chaos 

took over 

the moments of tranquility 

the hours of fantasy ! 



62 Sassi - Punnu 



suddenly the heavens broke into 

the fires of uncertainty 

she was desperate 

she tore to pieces her necklace of pearls 

her diamonds, gold and silver 

lay scattered all over the deserted ground 

her hair were flowing in the dust 

her heart sank 

her body ached 

her whole being was trembling 

with fear 

with the excruciating pains of separation 

she fell on the floor 

unconscious 

unwept 

unwed ! 



Sassi - Punmi 63 



the foster parents tried in vain 

to console the young girl 

forget this ephemeral relation 

these Blochs are wild people 

they cannot be trusted 

they follow no code 

they bother not about innocent hearts 

uncivilised, uncultured brutes 

they behave like the beasts of the jungle ! 



but nothing could restore 

the peace of the troubled soul 

Sassi was desperate 

a tortured being 

she could stand no more 

she was a restless fish 

a wounded fawn 

her love was snatched from her 

at its most ecstatic moment 

at its most sublime union ! 



64 Sassi - Punmi 



with courage and conviction 

she stood like a rock 

her eyes were blazing 

with rage and rancour 

she decided to be 

to be the eternal lover 

to go to the ultimate destination 

to follow her love 

on the hotest sand dunes 

of the merciless desert 

under the unbearable heat of the Indian summer ! 



the hot, burning winds swept the entire country 

even the birds and beasts could not breathe 

thirsty, their palpitating hearts 

longed for a drop of water 

for the last, lingering breeze of life 

the fires of the desert 
under the blazing sun 
engulfed all life, young and old ! 



Sassi - Punnu 65 



but Sassi was a determined being 

resolute, she faced the fury of nature 

with swollen feet and tormenting heart 

she went on and on 

she walked, she ran, she fell 

she stumbled in this absolute wilderness 

to follow her love 

to meet her Punnu ! 



a hundred times 

she fell, she arose 

a hundred times 

she cried : Punnu, Punnu 

she could hardly breathe 

but there was no let up 

the scorching heat 

the blistering sands 

the suffocating winds 

crushed her trembling limbs 

whipped her frail skeleton 

the jealous furies 

the cruel fate 

showed no mercy 

to this cursed girl 

to this resolute, resplendent being ! 



66 Sassi - Punnu 



she cried : Punnu, Punnu 

the cries of anguish and empathy 

her last utterances in this mad world 

where the princess lay breathless 

her last words lost in the abysmal depths of humanity 

the humanity that never bothered 

to respond to the lamentations 

of a wounded soul 

of a being deeply hurt 

cruelly deprived of the last kiss 

the kiss of love and longings 

of heavenly bliss 

of ultimate union ! 



betrayed by men and manners 

customs and courtesans 

parents and fraternities 

the princess breathed her last 

to enter into the kingdom of heaven 

the dominion of eternal lovers ! 



Sassi - Punnu 61 



when Punnu awoke 

when the influence of the drugged liquor 

did no more numb his senses 

in the dark dungeon 

he saw his own shadow 

and he was frightened ! 



where was Sassi 

his love 

his life 

he cried like a child 

like a mad man 

like the one who had lost all his treasure ! 



in a terrible rage 

of a wounded tiger 

he broke his chains 

he threw his shackles out of the window 

he crushed the door with his powerful hands 

crying : Sassi, Sassi 

he ran towards Bhambor 

to the city of his love ! 



68 Sassi - Pun mi 



for days, for nights 

thirsty, hungry 

breathless 

he ran, he walked 

he suffered heat and cold 

and finally reached the sacred place 

where his love 

Sassi 

had breathed her last 

had cried for the last time 

Punnu, Punnu ! 



a shepherd saw the mad man 

and came to his rescue 

he told him 

how Sassi had spent 

the last moments of her life 

the last hours of her agony 

he led him 

where 

his love was lying 

covered by a mound of sand 

her only sepulture 

the only resting place 

of the resplendent princess of yonder days ! 



Sassi - Punnu 69 



Punnu succumbed 
to his grief 
to his terrible loss 
and fell unconscious 
on the grave of his love 
the two lovers 
separated in life 
were united in death 
the eternal lovers 
lay in each other's arms 
in the sublime kingdom 
of love's eternity ! 



SOHNI 
MAHINWAL 



hail the grandeur of the Creator 

who is the basis of all love 

sacred and secular 

whose bounty 

whose beauty 

whose benediction 

are bestowed upon 

His creation 

His universe 

His devotees 

His faqirs 

His lovers ! 



74 Sohni - Mahinwal 



love is the cause 

of all creation 

of all destruction 

it has been the destiny, the fate 

of all lovers of the times past 

whoever dared to challenge 

the customs and conventions 

whoever dared to cross the threshold 

of old beliefs and bigotry 

had to pay with her life 

with his life 

to love 

to be 

one has to transcend 

this empirical, mundane world 

this superstitious world of demons and dungeons ! 



Sohni - Mahinwal 75 



on the bank of the sacred river, Jhanaa 

the river of lovers and faqirs 

of men and women 

of truth and justice 

of devotion and determination 

the city of Gujarat flourished 

with master craftsmen 

with the artists 

who excelled in all arts 

in all decors 

but Tullah, the potter 

was the most accomplished 

whose hands were the hands of God Himself 

who created the most beautiful forms 

most sublime curves 

with honesty, prayer and devotion 

he was blessed with the creativity of the eternal Creator 

the greatest connoisseurs of the East 

came to his workshop 

to admire and acquire his master pieces ! 



16 Sohni - Mahinwa 



the divine hands of Tullah 

created pitchers and pots 

of all forms 

of all colours 

there were the most beautiful vases 

for the fragrant flowers of Gujarat 

there were sublime statues 

for the palaces of the kings 

they graced the houses of the nobles 

and enhanced the grandeur of the courts 

his works of art 

were the treasures of the richest princes 

his creations 

adorned the most sacred 

temples and mosques 

the nobles, the faqirs 

the rich, the poor 

all admired his excellence 

all yearned to see his wonders ! 



Sohni - Mahinwal 



Allah is great 

and His benedictions are even greater 

Allah and the artist 

have a certain similitude 

a certain professional affinity 

both create forms and figures 

both yearn to love and be loved 

both live for others 

others who never reciprocate 

that is the destiny 

of both Allah and the artist ! 



blessed by the Almighty 

Tullah had a beautiful daughter 

named appropriately, SOHNI 

Sohni, the beautiful 

the prettiest of all girls 

the daughter of the artist, Tullah 

blessed by His God 

the greatest Creator 

the greatest Artist ! 



78 Sohni - Mahinwal 



the daughter of an artist 

an artist she was 

she excelled all and sundry 

in aesthetics, in appreciation 

of all that was artistic 

of all that was cultural, creative 

her body and intellect 

were in perfect harmony 

a harmony achieved 

only by the most talented 

by the most blessed ! 

she helped her father 

in every creation 

she followed the master 

in every imagination 

she soon developed her own 

style and silhouette 

her own taste and temperament 

every thing, every element 

that passed through her hands 

through her heart 

evolved into a work of art 

a work of magnificence 

Tullah and Sohni 

father and daughter 

made a perfect union 

of the sublime and the serene 

of the transcendent 

and the transparent ! 



Sohni - Mah inwal 1 9 



Sohni the beautiful 

was blessed by the Almighty 

her charm and grace 

were the talk of the town 

her artistic creations 

were known all over 

her gait, her demeanour 

her poise, her smile 

swayed all hearts, young and old ! 



as an artist 

she lived in a world of her own 

her imagination transcended 

all thresholds of cultures and customs 

her thoughts constituted 

the most ephemeral universes 

she reflected 

on the lovers and the artists 

of yonder days 

of her tradition 

her religion 

her race 

and she was often sad ! 



80 Sohni - Mah inw a I 



she marveled at the bounty 

at the beauty 

in the creation of Allah 

in His nature 

in His nurture 

in growth 

in decay 

in life 

in death 

and she thought of divine grace 

and sublime grandeur 

in every act 

in every gesture 

of the Creator 

of the Master ! 



she thought also 

of the pain and suffering 

of those who dare to live 

their own lives 

who dare to follow 

the dictates of their own hearts 

who attempt to reason 

in the affairs of religion 

who cross the thresholds of 

customs and conventions ! 



Sohni - Mahinwal 



Sohni the beautiful 

was also a determined being 

her delicate hands 

created the most beautiful forms 

her universe of imagination 

led to the most artistic curves 

her heart followed 

every gesture of love 

every word of faith and fortitude ! 



she often wondered 

why men become monsters 

why the nobles and the kings 

the priests and the parents 

misuse the divine gift of creativity 

in most corrupt deeds 

in most heinous crimes 

why the saints and the sadhus 

the lovers and the faqirs 

have to suffer tribulations and torments 

and the pains of all humanity 

why the young girls 

have to pay 

for the sins of others ? 



82 Sohni - Mahinwal 



Tullah's workshop 

was frequented by the merchants 

by the connoisseurs of art 

amongst the visitors 

was Mirza Izzat Beg 

a noble of a neighbouring State 

looking for the works of art 

works of sublime creation 

by the greatest master of his times 

he saw Sohni in the gallery 

and was immediately bewitched 

by the greatest creation of God Himself 

the most beautiful being 

the most charming girl 

subdued the noble heart 

of the handsome prince ! 



Sohn i - Mah inwal 8 3 



he was so taken in 

so deeply in love 

with the loveliest of damsels 

day and night 

he yearned to see her 

with one excuse or another 

he managed to visit 

the gallery of the artist 

to pay homage to his love 

to exchange a word, a smile 

with the princess of his dreams ! 



Sohni and Izzat Beg 

liked each other 

their noble thoughts 

their high ideals 

their knowledge of art and craft 

their dreams of sublimity and serenity 

mingled with their love and affection 

the two young hearts 

followed the same beat 

the same rhythm of faith and fraternity 



84 Sohni - Mahinwal 



as the visits of a connoisseur 

could not go on for ever 

Izzat Beg decided to become 

the shepherd, the Mahinwal 

in the House of Tullah 

to take care of his buffaloes 

his cows, his sheep 

to be near his love 

his princess sublime 

his companion in thought and deed 

the two lovers 

met often in the sprawling fields of Gujarat 

in the nature 

fragrant with wild flowers and plants 

of immense variety 

of unparalleled beauty 

they discussed and discerned 

the ways of the world 

the movements of young hearts in love 

they lived in a universe 

of transcendent sublimity 

of unknown anxiety ! 



Sohni- Mah inwal 8 5 



the lovers, the faqirs 

the honest men and women 

disrupt the order 

the social order 

of distinctions and deceptions 

it cannot stand 

the harmony of hearts 

the happiness of young couples 

it strives to infuse 

conflict and chaos 

in the world of concord 

in the world of human relations 

soon the parents of Sohni 

were informed of the 

secret meetings of the lovers 

of their breach 

of the customs and conventions 

of the traditional families ! 



8 6 Sohn i - Mah inwal 



the mother was furious 

she was ashamed of her daughter 

who had blackened the glorious name 

of the family of Tullahs 

who had ruined the reputation 

of the great artist 

for generations, for centuries 

the family had followed 

the rules and regulations 

the dictates and decisions 

of the high priests 

of the elders 

the young girls must obey their parents 

must follow the age old customs 

age old conventions of modesty and morality 

it is the parents 

who decide 

who should they marry 

who should they live with 

there is no question of individual assertions 

no room for personal preferences ! 



Sohni - Mahinwal 87 



the young girl pleaded for understanding 

for the harmony of relations 

for the happiness of companions 

after all 

it was her life 

her disposition 

that mattered the most 

by being with a person 

she loved 

she had committed no crime 

why should the customs and traditions 

and the elders 

interfere with the affairs of the heart 

why should they impose 

their dictates on unwilling minds 

why should they introduce 

conflict and chaos 

where harmony reigns 

where the bliss of friendship prevails ? 




^ 






% 



Sohni - Mahinwal 



but the parents were in no mood 

to listen to this impertinent talk 

this existential assertion 

of a slip of a girl 

what did she know of the wisdom of ages 

what did she understand 

of the golden heritage of religions and races 

the purity, the sanctity 

must be maintained at any cost 

at any price ! 



the parents lost no time 

in finding a suitable match 

they bundled her off 

into a palanquin 

the poor girl had no choice 

she cried in vain 

she protested 

she resisted 

but there was none to listen to her pleas 

none to care for her heart beats 

she was married with an unknown person 

she was pushed into an unknown family 

she must stay there 

she must obey the elders 

she must spend the rest of her life 

in misery, in misfortune ! 



Sohni - Mahinwal 89 



restless, helpless 

she prayed to the five pirs 

the five noble spirits 

who always come to the aid of 

humanity in distress 

who come to the succour 

of young girls 

who yearn for their love 

who dream of purity and honesty 

they had helped her cousin, Heer 

they came to rescue Sohni 

she was saved by the benign spirits 

they secured 

her chastity, her purity 

her love 

for her companion ! 



meanwhile Izzat Beg 

went through another metamorphosis 

like his elder cousin 

Dhido Ranjha of Takhat Hazara 

he became a faqir 

a mendicant ! 



90 Sohni - Mahinwal 



on the other side of Jhanaa 

the eternal river of the lovers 

the lovers, the faqirs 

who abandon the mundane world 

to attain, to acquire 

the sublimity, the serenity 

of the other world 

of the other universe 

of eternal love 

of eternal bliss ! 



the most sacred river, Jhanaa 

was cursed to divide 

the secular from the sacred 

the sublime from the serene 

the heart from the hearth 

but it also negotiated 

the two extremes 

the two poles of body and soul 

the two sides of love and longings 

many a lover 

since centuries past 

since times immemorial 

perished into its ferocious waters 

many a lover 

achieved eternal life 

in its pristine currents 



Sohni — Mahinwal 9 1 



Sohni and Mahinwal 

could not escape 

its fury 

its ferment 

its lure 

its lust 

its everlasting pull 

of desires and dreams ! 



Sohni used to cross the river 

on a pot, a pitcher, a ghara 

to meet her love 

to quench her thirst 

of eternal separation 

the two sides of Jhanaa 

represented the two universes 

of life and death 

of palpitating hearts 

of the two lovers 

who longed to unite across its strong currents 

across its unknown depths ! 



92 Sohni - Mahinwal 



it was always at night 

that Sohni took the plunge 

to go beyond the world 

of men and manners 

of customs and conventions 

the darkness of the night 

covered the dirt of the day 

the fusion of light and shade 

helped the ferment of the minds 

the lover and the faqir 

lived in the lap of nature 

in the purity of the benign spirits 

of affection and endearment 

of desire and derision ! 



the romantic meetings of the lovers 

could not go on for ever 

the harmony of hearts 

the resonance of their beats 

disturb the social order 

the order that is based 

on discipline and division 

on obedience and tradition 



Sohni - Mahinwal 93 



the sister-in-law of Sohni 

her nanaan 

found out the sequence 

the secret of the pitcher 

she devised a plot 

a nefarious plot 

to replace the baked pitcher 

with an unbaked pitcher 

a kacha ghara ! 



the hour of the greatest martyrdom 

the greatest sacrifice 

had arrived 

as Sohni felt the pitcher 

her artistic instinct 

immediately alerted her 

to the ensuing danger 

on the one side 

was her love 

her life 

on the other 

the poison of black tongues 

the evil spirits 

the fury of nature 

the cruelty of fate 

her death ! 



94 Sohni — Mahinwal 



Sohni had to make a choice 

an existential choice 

to be 

or not to be 

to live to the highest ideals 

of love and faith 

to dissolve in the 

absolute mist 

of ideas and imagination ! 



she resolved to 

follow her heart 

her ideals 

her sublimity 

her sincerity 

of absolute fraternity ! 



Sohni - Mahinwal 95 



Sohni the beautiful 

the most sensitive artist 

of her times 

the most faithful lover 

of her age 

followed her heart 

her reason 

her resolve 

to plunge into 

the most ferocious waters of Jhanaa ! 

the night was dark 

the clouds hovered over 

the entire universe 

the clouds of calamity and cruelty 

under the most violent storm of the year 

the trees bent 

to salute the heroine 

the beloved of Mahinwal 

the ideal of all lovers ! 



96 Sohni - Mahinwal 



with the unbaked pot 

the kacha ghara under her arm 

she plunged 

into the furious waters of Jhanaa 

the Jhanaa 

that had seen 

that had endured 

many a tragedy 

many a resolve 

of the determined minds 

the minds 

who challenge the mundane 

the superstitious norms 

of customs and conventions ! 



as the whirlwinds 

zeroed on Sohni 

she cried : Mahinwal, Mahinwal 

she called her love 

her friend 

her companion in thought and deed ! 



Sohni - Mahimval 97 



poor Mahinwal 

the faqir 

the beloved of the Creator 

and Sohni 

never dreamt of 

this catastrophe 

this horrible end 

this sublime moment 

of courage and conviction ! 



he rushed 

to the wild and ferocious 

force of currents and conventions 

to the cries of his beloved 

to the lamentations of his love 

and head on 

he threw himself 

into the abysmal depths of infinity 

the infinity 

of emotions and heart beats 



98 Sohni - Mahinwal 



which once upon a time 

followed each other 

in harmonious resonance 

in absolute correspondence 

of body and spirit 

of heart and hearth ! 



the eternal Jhanaa 

the fast moving river 

that had witnessed 

many an encounter 

of love and longings 

of life and death 

in the dark depths 

of this abysmal universe 

embraced both the lovers 

and hugged them to their last breath 

their purity, their chastity 

their sublimity, their sincerity 

were kept intact 

by the violence 

by the fury 

of the ferocious currents of Jhanaa 



Sohni - Mahinwal 99 



the farewell to this cruel world 

was accompanied 

by the sublime moment of eternity 

by the serene rhythm of fraternity 

of the lovers of all times 

of all nations ! 



MIRZA 
SAHIB AN 



praise be to Allah 

the Almighty Creator of the universe 

of suns and stars 

of moons and mountains 

of sky and earth 

of all vegetation, all life 

of all men, all women 

and the sentiments of love and affection 

which unite them in eternal bliss 

in eternal happiness ! 



Allah is great 

but even greater are His blessings 

His gifts to mankind 

His love for young and old 

His dispensation 

for the lovers of beauty and beatitude 

for the martyrs of hearts and hearths ! 



1 04 Mirza - Sahib an 



amongst His magnificent gifts 

was the most beautiful daughter, Sahiban 

in the House of Khiwa 

and the most handsome son, Mirza 

in the House of Binjal ! 



Sahiban, the sweetest 

the lovely girl 

the jewel of her parents 

the darling of her friends 

grew into the most beautiful girl of the Khiwas 

her intellect, her incision 

in all matters 

sacred and secular 

astonished all 

the neighbours, the cousins 

all adored Sahiban 

the most gracious child ! 



Mirza - Sahibcm 1 05 



Mirza the young, handsome son of Binjal 

the cousin of Sahiban 

was known for his bravery 

for his courage, for his poise 

all admired his intellect 

his good manners 

his skills in sports 

his adventures 

in hunting wild animals 

his excellence 

in riding the most ferocious horses ! 



Mirza and sahiban 

studied together in a mosque 

they pondered over 

the sacred and the secular 

traditions of the East 

the wisdom of the great sages 

the legends of the celebrated lovers 

the ideas and the imaginations 

of the great poets 

of the great masters of the past ! 



1 06 Mirza - Sahiban 



their minds were nurtured 

with the ideals of the golden heritage 

of centuries old traditions 

of the narratives of courage and conviction 

they studied art and culture 

of their ancestors 

they reflected upon 

the sublime and sacred concepts 

of life and death 

of love and longings 

of young hearts 

who yearn to be 

to be blessed 

with faith and friendship 

with fellowship and fortitude ! 



their heart beats 

mingled with their love and affection 

their rhythms followed the ideals 

of serenity and sincerity 

of a united resonance 

of the music of the minds 

of the harmony of the hearts ! 



Mirza - Sahib an 1 07 



they grew together 

in body and soul 

in emotions and intellect 

they followed each other 

in studies, in sports 

in ideas, in imagination 

in delusions, in decisions 

they pledged to be 

to be with each other 

for ever 

in this and the other world ! 



they kissed and hugged 

the kisses and hugs 

of eternal friendship 

of sublime love 

of harmonious hearts 

who follow the same beat 

the same rhythm ! 



they lived through 
different weathers 
different seasons 
of summer and winter 
of heat and cold 



1 8 Mirza - Sahib an 

of the spring of youth 
of the rising ambitions 
of the sublime unions 
of the hearts in love 
of the hearths in longings ! 



they reflected upon 

the fates, the ferments 

of the legendary lovers 

of their glorious tradition 

of their tormented past 

and they wondered 

why the young palpitating hearts 

the purest minds 

must be engulfed 

in the dark clouds of destiny 

in the mist of unknown horizons 

why the lovers of the thousand and one tales 

live in anxiety and anguish 

in seclusion and separation 

in the tales 

that their grandmothers and grandfathers 

were never tired of 

recounting and repeating 

every evening ! 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 09 



but that is the way 

it is 

that is the way 

it was going to be 

their parents did not approve of 

their engagement 

their friendship 

the rhythm of their young hearts ! 



Sahiban was engaged 
to be married 
to another person 
in another family 
and a day was fixed 
by the go-betweens 
by the elders 
for the marriage 
of the unfortunate girl ! 



1 1 Mirza - Sahiban 



in agony, in anguish 

in absolute misery 

Sahiban sent a message 

to her love 

to Mirza 

that his treasure will be 

soon gone 

will be soon in the hands 

of the enemies of serenity and sincerity 

his love 

will be throttled 

his dreams will be covered 

with dust and disaster ! 



her parents 

had delineated her destiny 

in misery and misfortune 

her elders 

had decided to destroy 

her dreams of union and bliss 

of the happy life together 

with her love 

with her friend 

with the prince of her ideas and imagination ! 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 1 1 



when Mirza received 

the most threatening news 

of the ensuing disaster 

he was devastated 

he was decimated 

the Sials had stolen 

his pearl 

his diamond 

his treasure ! 



fuming with rage 

he mounted his horse 

the fastest horse of the Kharals 

to avenge his honour 

to prove his manliness 

to rescue his love 

from the butchers of his desires 

from the enemies of his dreams ! 



1 1 2 Mirza - Sahib an 



his mother was worried 

my son 

forget Sahiban 

these smart girls of the Sials 

are not dependable 

they cannot be trusted 

Sahiban belongs to a family of feudal lords 

her father is the Chief of the town 

her brothers are great warriors 

do not risk your life 

for the sake of a woman 

for the sake of a fickle heart 

the wisdom of ages 

the tradition of centuries 

warn against 

the wiles of women 

forget this girl 

there are so many beautiful damsels 

waiting for your hand 

for your love ! 



Mirza - Sahib an 1 1 3 



my dear mother 

you are right 

your sentiments are noble 

but Sahiban is not just any girl 

she is my love 

my heart 

my rhythm 

if I do not act now 

if I do not challenge the Sials 

if I do not rescue Sahiban 

from the clutches of these brutes 

I can never live with honour 

I will be the laughing stock 

of all humanity 

the Sials will mock 

at the stupid Kharals 

at our cowardly disposition 

how can we live with honour 

with pride 

in our race 

in our tradition 

if we let these Sials 

loot our treasure in broad day light ? 



mtyi 










j/l 





1 4 Mirza - Sahiban 



with a sword in his hand 

and the bow and arrows on his shoulder 

he kicked his horse 

and off he flew 

like an eagle in the sky 

on the fastest horse of its times 

the bravest of men was riding 

through the sprawling fields 

through the wild forests 

he stormed into the most peaceful atmosphere 

of simple men and women 

of God's nature and nurture 

he stopped near a spring 
to rest and quench his thirst 

a faqir met him there 

and enquired about his restlessness 

his worry 

his anxiety 

as Mirza recounted his misfortune 

the faqir was sanguine 

be careful, my child 

do not plunge into 

the fires of hell 

the wars 

for women and wealth 

have never benefited any mortal 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 1 5 



with faith in the bounty of Allah 

rest a while 

pause for a moment 

and reflect upon the consequences 

of such hasty actions 

of such foolhardy flights ! 



my noble sage 

your wisdom cannot be questioned 

your advice cannot be ignored 

but you are too old 

to comprehend the compulsions of young hearts 

to follow die rhythms of love 

Sahiban is my heart 

my love 

my life 

without her 

there is no reason to live 

to linger 

in this mortal world 

I must go 

I must fight 

with the deadliest of enemies 

I must save my honour 

the honour of my ancestors 

of my race 

I must meet my Sahiban 

my love 

in life, in death ! 



1 1 6 Mirza - Sahiban 



through wind and water 

through wild storms 

Mirza's horse was flying 

into eternity 

day and night 

suns and stars 

were envious of its force and ferocity 

the fury of nature and culture 

matched with the rage 

of the bravest of the warriors 

as he looked up 

as he gazed into the horizon 

Mirza saw the angel of destiny 

who beckoned him to follow the divine spirit 

young man 

you are courting death 

your days are numbered 

the angel of death and destiny 

has come to warn you 

beware 

forget your adventure 

your love will betray you 

you will be left alone 

to face the fury of nature 

your enemies will pierce you 

with arrows and swords 

you must follow my advice 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 1 7 



and go back 

retrace your wild steps 

recover your peace of mind ! 



the angel of death and destiny 

I bow in reverence and respect 

you are the lord 

of life and death 

you are feared by all humanity 

you are honoured by all those 

who love life 

who want to live in peace and prosperity 

but I am Mirza 

the son of Binjal 

a Kharal 

I am condemned to follow the path 

of danger and destruction 

of revenge and resurrection 

I am a restless soul 

I am a deeply- hurt being 

I cannot follow your command 

I must follow my heart 

I must face 

my fate, my faction 

I cannot run away 

I must challenge 

my enemies 



Mirza - Sahib an 



if it is so 

be it so 

I must face 

the battlefield of love 

the agony of death and delusion ! 



Mirza arrived just in time 

on the eve of Sahiban's marriage 

there were festivities all over 

the dancing girls 

the beat of the drums 

the acrobats, the jugglers 

eating and drinking 

the whole neighbourhood 

reverberated with 

the cries of the revellers ! 

Sahiban was decked 

as a bride 

as a daughter of the Chief of the Sials 

bathed in 

the most fragrant perfumes 

she wore the most gorgeous dress 

with bangles and necklace 

with earrings and nose rings 

with all kinds of 

rings of gold and diamonds 

she was the most beautiful bride 

surrounded by the celestial damsels of the Sials 

her friends from childhood 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 1 9 



with whom she grew 

into womanhood 

into the secrets of love and romance 

into the mysteries of life and longings ! 



but Sahiban was sad 

uncertain about her future 

uncertain about the fate of her love 

where was Mirza 

her love 

her life 

he had deserted her 

his treasure was being looted 

and he was careless 

oblivious of his fate 

his fortune 

she remembered the old wisdom 

she had learnt in the mosque 

men cannot be trusted 

they enjoy the company of women 

and when the hour of decision comes 

when there is a question of life and death 

they run away 

they betray their love 

their promises of faith and fortitude ! 



1 20 Mirza - Sahiban 



and lo and behold 

there was Mirza 

her misgivings were set aside 

a friend of Sahiban 

brought his message 

Mirza was waiting outside 

at the threshold 

at the threshold of life and death 

of decision and departure ! 



quietly, silendy 

with the help of her trusted friend 

she slipped away 

and fell into the arms of Mirza 

who immediately put her 

on his steed 

and flew like an eagle 

in the wilderness 

in the wilderness of demons and delusions 

of uncertain anxieties 

of uncertain agonies ! 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 2 1 



Mirza's horse flew like an angel 

through storms and streams 

through the vast fields 

of the prosperous Punjab 

through the ferocious jungles 

of Allah's creation 

the fastest horse 

that there ever was 

the envy of the bravest men 

the dream of the greatest warriors ! 



after a long flight 

after a hazardous journey 

Mirza stopped 

to rest 

to repose under a tree 

near a spring of pristine water 

the eternal water of harmony and happiness 

the lovers 

kissed and hugged 

and made love 

the most sublime and voluptuous love 

of their life 

of their destiny ! 



1 22 Mirza - Sahiban 



Sahiban pleaded 

to continue their journey 

their last journey of love and longings 

she was afraid 

her brothers may not catch up 

the Sials were too proud 

of their race 

of their tradition 

to let Mirza loot their treasure 

dishonour their daughter 

destroy their reputation 

of bravery 

and ruthless destruction 

of all that stood in their way 

ofaU 

who challenged their might ! 



her brother Shamir 

was the bravest of all 

he had conquered many a fort 

he had demolished 

many a mansion 

he had decimated 

whole armies ! 



Mirza - Sah ib an 123 



but Mirza was in no mood 

to listen 

to this brave talk 

to this 

womanly cowardice 

who could challenge 

his mighty sword 

his deadly arrows 

with one stroke 

he would destroy her kith and kin 

with one burst of arrows 

he would annihilate 

the army of her brothers 

his strength 

his might 

his bravery 

were unmatched 

unparalleled in the whole world 

none dare challenge him 

none dare confront 

the bravest of men 

the most ruthless warrior ! 



1 24 Mirza - Sahibctn 



amidst Sahiban's pleas and protests 

exhausted 

Mirza fell asleep 

the poor, helpless girl was worried 

she was sure 

her brothers would follow them 

nurtured by her filial tradition on the one hand 

and the romantic on the other 

she was divided 

between die two loyalties 

between the two loves 

both were pure and sublime 

both were sanctified 

by the Almighty Allah Himself 

she was scared 
she was horrified 
at the very thought 
at the very sight 
of the ensuing fight 
of absolute devastation 
of her body and soul 
of her heart and hearth ! 



Mirza - Sahiban 1 25 



there was no delay 

in the approach 

of the hordes of the Sials 

in absolute confusion 

in absolute chaos 

of her rhyme and reason 

of her heart and heaven 

in absolute fright 

she hung the arrows of Mirza 

on the J and tree 

the tree of life and death ! 



the armies of Shamir 
surrounded the couple 
Mirza was pierced by an arrow 
of the approaching warriors 
abruptly awakened 
like a wounded tiger 
he looked for his arrows 
he looked for his bow 
and he cursed Sahiban 
who had betrayed her love 
who had preferred her brother 



1 2 6 Mirza - Sah ib an 



wounded, limping 

he advanced with his sword 

and with one shaft 

he cut down 

the brother, Shamir 

with one stroke 

he decimated 

the dreams of Sahiban 

but he was alone 

he was already wounded 

the arrows of Shamir 

had pierced his body and heart 

he could stand no more 

he collapsed 

on the battlefield of love ! 



helpless, restless 

Sahiban was crying 

she was devastated 

she had lost 

her brother, Shamir 

she had lost 

her love, Mirza 

her world was in ruins 

her dreams were shattered 



Mirza - Sah iban 1 2 7 



in absolute desperation 

she could not decide 

at the most crucial moment of her life 

at the most existential threshold of her destiny 

she could not move 

in one direction 

or the other 

her legend, her life 

will always remain 

a question mark 

for all the traditions and travails 

her existential trials and tribulations 

will be forgotten 

will be lost 

in the mist of confusion and chaos 

she was exhausted 

she fell in the arms of her love 

in his grave 

to be with him 

with his body and soul 

for eternity ! 



PURAN 
BHAGAT 



The Human Condition in Puran Bhagat 



In this paper I have attempted to analyse the human condition in a 
number of crises in the narrative of Puran Bhagat. The point of departure 
is the version of the legend of Puran, composed by a popular Punjabi 
bard, Qadiryar, in the early years of the nineteenth century. 

The legend is constituted of six principal dramatis personae : Puran, 
his father, the Raja Salwan of Sialkot, (now in Pakistan,) his Guru, 
Gorakh Nath, and, the three women : the mother of Puran, Icchran; 
Salwan' s second wife, Luna; and, the beautiful princess, Sundran. The 
disequilibrium caused by Luna's infatuation and Salwan 's execution of 
Puran is sought to be balanced by the motherly affection of Icchran, and, 
the love of Sundran, whose gift to the psychic comportment of Puran is 
the supreme sacrifice of her life. This legend is an important conceptual 
discourse of our culture. It deals with the compunctions of public morality 
and collective consciousness. It moves along the development of 
individual psychic crises. The two meet and interact in a number of 
situations where the questions of duty, honour and revenge are raised, 
where the collective dharma confronts the existential assertions. The 



132 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 



logical sequencing of the narrative is highly dynamic. The events move 
with extreme rapidity, and, invariably lead to their logical conclusions. 

Condemned by the astrologers to avoid his parents, Puran grows in 
the darkness and deprivation of a dungeon for twelve years. Immediately 
after his advent in the life of human relationships, Puran is enticed by his 
stepmother, Luna, who, rejected by Puran' s public morality, gets him 
executed by his father, Sal wan. And, another period of twelve years in the 
forlorn darkness of the deserted well begins. Then comes Guru Gorakh 
Nath who restores Puran his limbs and sends him to beg alms at the 
palace of princess Sundran. The encounter with Sundran leaves Puran a 
complete wreck, for Sundran commits suicide when Puran leaves her for 
good. Luna subjected Puran to physical torture to neutralise his mental 
tribulations. Sundran tortured herself to inflict the sharpest cut on Puran' s 
psychic wounds. 

It is a discourse of extreme polarities. We move from darkness to 
light, from treachery to affection, from extreme laxity in principles to 
extreme austerity and discipline of yoga, from absolute detachment to 
absolute involvement. There are dehumanising factors which make Puran 
a monster of a man. There are humanising constituents which attempt to 
bring Puran back to social normalcy. The cultural discourse of the 
narrative is not a thesis, nor a statement of facts. It decomposes the 
constituents within the context of a constituted whole. In other words, as 
it unfolds certain mysteries, it wraps up other predicaments. In the end, it 
manifests itself as another riddle io be solved with the help of other 
similar creative texts. But as I have tried to demonstrate towards the end 
of this paper, it is precisely the nature of the creative act that is at stake. It 
is a continuous dialectical process. Its contradictory strands lead to such 
compositions whose ends are always loose. They can be stretched in many 
directions. Several interpretations are possible, but each interpretation has 
serious consequences for our cultural development. The creative 
evolutionary process of a culture is not based on sentimental impulses, its 
development follows the incisions of intellective operations. I have 
attempted one such incision on the cultural discourse unfolded in the 
legend of Puran Bhagat. 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 133 



II 

There are six basic thematic units. The first theme refers to the birth of 
Puran in the House of Raja Salwan of Sialkot. The moment is surcharged 
with the confrontation of destinies. The Brahmins tell the Raja to avoid 
seeing Puran for the first twelve years as the encounter of son and father 
portends disaster. The servants obey and Puran is taken to a closed 
dungeon. The poet Qadiryar aptly refers to Puran' s entry from one 
darkness (of the womb) to another. The oppositions of light and darkness, 
of mysterious depths and sharp truth are obvious. Both mental and 
physical atmospheres are disturbed. Characters and destinies are at stake. 

The second theme refers to the main crisis of the narrative. After 
twelve years of confinement, where he had had the usual training of a 
prince, Puran steps out into the world of human relationships and 
intrigues. There are celebrations and sacrifices. Salwan is overjoyed. The 
proud father dreams of the marriage of Puran and the happy days ahead. 
But this is not to be. 

Once due reverences paid to his father, Puran is led to see his 
mother, Icchran, and, the stepmother, Raja Salwan' s second wife, Luna. 
The sight of Puran so captivates Luna that she forgets the social 
relationship of being a "mother" and entices Puran with her charm and 
solicitations. Puran remains steadfast in his role of a stepson, and, 
withstands all temptations. Luna takes it as a challenge to her very being. 
She pleads gently and offers all the pleasures of the world. She argues that 
as she did not give birth to Puran, she could not be his mother. When all 
this fails to move Puran, she threatens and cajoles. Puran at once accepts 
the challenge. He would rather die than leave his dharma. Luna is 
transformed immediately into a revengeful ogress. As Qadiryar puts it : 
she would drink his blood to satisfy her thirst of revenge. 



134 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

kafkatal kraugi purna we 
akhe lagja bhalaje chahona e 
jholi ad ke khari mce pas tere 
hce piaria khcer napaona e 
kucchar bceth kado mamma chugia i 
oewe kur di mao banaoda e 
Oadaryar na sagdi kahe luna 
kahnu gardni khun charaona e 



kafkahe raja aje samjh mata 
tere palgh te peer na mul dharsa 
akkhi partke nazar na mul karsci 
cepar suli te charhan kabul karsa 
kanni khichke adro bahar aia 
akhe dharam gawae ke nahi marsa 
Oadaryar wagar ke kahe luna 
tere lahu de puma ghut bharsa 



The ball is set rolling and there is no going back. The third thematic 
unit of the narrative is a logical consequence of the second. Luna 
organises a complot. She convinces Raja Sawan that Puran wanted to 
seduce her. She has been insulted and disgraced by his tempestuous son, 
of whom he is so proud, who is the darling of his mother, Icchran, the 
other, neglected wife of Salwan. 

The Raja is furious. How dare his young son lay hand on his 
favourite queen? Their passions crisscross. Their ambitions are in violent 
confrontation. He has Puran called to his authence, and, in spite of all 
protestations and arguments of truth and dharma, which only infuriate the 
father even more, convincing him of Puran' s indiscipline and 
disobedience, the Raja orders the executioners to delimb Puran, and, to 
throw him in a deserted well in the wilderness. Puran' s mother, Icchran, 
pleads to the contrary and appeals with the most powerful argument, 
according to our cultural norms, that if Puran dies, who would call him 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 135 

"father". The Raja's advisers also counsel temperance but none of this has 
any effect on the violent tempest let loose by Luna. 

he hukam napherda koi aggo 

preshan sarapariwar hoia 

thar thar kambde rag mahal sabhe 

kaiharwanjado sardar hoia 

kare sad ke hukam jaladia nu 

dhumrni khabar te shaihar hartal hoia 



khe khabar hoi rani icchra nu 
jisjammia pur an put sai 
chura bhan ke tor hamel mala 
bhar buk rani sir khakpai 
made gha piaria putra de 
rani bhaj ke raje de pas ai 

Puran is duly executed. He remains stuck in the deserted well for the 
legendary twelve years, when Guru Gorakh Nath, the great yogi, appears 
on the scene with his disciples. In this fourth theme, Gorakh brings Puran 
out of the darkness and death of the deep well into the light and life of 
yoga. His limbs are restored. He is initiated into the mysteries of yoga, 
but strangely enough, the main emphasis, as presented by the poet, is on 
the "honour" of the yogic discipline. Gorakh Nath is the Guru whose 
yoga has been "acknowledged" by the Almighty, and Puran, his disciple, 
is charged with upholding the high yogic tradition of steadfastness and 
discipline. Puran is the new prince-yogi, not just an ordinary adept. Puran 
narrates his tale of woes, and Gorakh realises the headstrong young 
fellow that Puran is. The Guru and the disciple are in tune with each 
other. Both deal in abstract principles and are ever willing to confront any 
situation of mental disturbance that comes along. 

And, there is no dearth of tests. The crowd of disciples hemming 
around the Guru for a few loaves of bread encourage Puran to go for alms 
at the palace of princess Sundran, who apparently had never descended 



136 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

from her palace for the little mendicants. The confrontation with Sundran 
is the theme of the fifth unit of the narrative. 

With the permission of the Guru, Puran sets out to the palace of 
princess Sundran. As usual, the maidservant of the palace offers him 
alms, but he refuses. He would accept them only from the princess 
herself. The maidservant is so excited that she describes the handsome 
figure of the prince-yogi in great detail. Sundran is obviously curious. She 
invites him in, but he refuses. As Qadiryar puts it : he had already 
crossed one threshold in such a palace, he dare not try another snare. 
Sundran obliges and gives her gifts of pearls and diamonds. When Gorakh 
Nath sees these precious stones, he remonstrates Puran. The yogis accept 
nothing but ordinary food. A mendicant is not a beggar. Puran returns 
and Sundran accompanies him with all kinds of delicacies. 

The arrival of Sundran at the Dera of Gorakh Nath creates an 
atmosphere of extreme velocity. The presence of such a beautiful princess 
amongst the sadhus surcharges the environment. All the mendicants are 
excited, and, as Qadiryar describes the event, only Guru Gorakh Nath and 
Puran are able to keep their balance. However, the Guru is pleased with 
Sundran' s humility and grants her a boon. Sundran asks for Puran. Once 
the dye was cast, there was no way out. The Guru's word had to be kept, 
and Sundran leads Puran away to her palace. This is obviously too much 
of an ordeal for Puran. He slips away from the palace at the very first 
opportunity, and, deceived and depressed, Sundran commits suicide. 

When Guru Gorakh Nath realises what had happened, he sends Puran 
back to his parents. Puran goes from one woman to another. At each 
encounter, the bewitching woman is taken in by his handsome figure and 
self-assurance. He tells Sundran that he is no ordinary beggar sadhu; he is 
a prince of high caste. He had come to see her. He would neither accept 
any gift from a maidservant nor would he cross the threshold of the 
palace. He would neither enter the palace nor accept any one other than 
that of the palace. The dilemma continues. 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 137 

As Puran arrives in the dominion of his father, we come to the last 
episode of our narrative. He camps in a deserted garden on the outskirts 
of the city of Salwan. Puran' s spiritual stepping-in gives life to the 
withering plants. The whole city pays homage to the new yogi whose 
generous touch heals all wounds and destroys all miseries. The news 
reach the palace. Puran' s mother, Icchran, who had become blind crying 
for her son, arrives in the garden for the yogi's solace. Raja Salwan and 
his queen Luna also come to see the renowned yogi for the boon of a son. 
When the son and mother meet, Icchran recovers her eyesight. With Raja 
Salwan and Luna, the encounter is of another order. The king would like 
to be blessed with a son, for he had had none to play in his palace, which 
is deserted without the laughter of a child. Puran probes the past, and 
reminds him of a son, named Puran, who was executed. When Raja 
Salwan begins his narrative, Puran exhorts Luna to come out with the true 
sequence, if she desires the boon of a son. As the truth is revealed, and 
Luna is humiliated, Puran advises Salwan to forget the past. She did what 
she could, but what he, the father, did, was never done by any other 
father. All the same, he gives him a grain of rice, with which Luna would 
conceive, and give birth to a warrior son, but afterwards she would also 
suffer like the mother of Puran. A gift of humiliation and revenge, all 
wrapped up neatly, in the yogic tradition of discipline and austerity. 

And finally, the identity is revealed. Salwan and Luna are in the 
terrible presence of Puran. The Raja pleads and requests Puran to take 
over the reigns of the kingdom. Puran refuses flatly : if you cannot 
govern your dominion, let it go to the dogs. Who cares for me? You are 
only ashamed of your deeds, and want to cover up your crimes. Go home, 
my brother would sit on this throne, who would be a great warrior. I got 
what was destined for me. The way I was turned out of my city, no prince 
was ever so humiliated. What my father did was never done by any other 
father in any age... And, Puran leaves Sialkot for good. 



138 The Human Condition in Pur an Bha^at 



III 

The human condition in the narrative of Puran is the condition of sex and 
violence, of discipline and austerity, of heightened emotions and extreme 
egocentric personalities. Each sequence of the narrative is charged with 
existential crises of the being who can never forget himself. The self is 
above all emotions. 

All the dramatis personae are wrapped up in the most unyielding 
cover of self-deceit and self-assurance. But it is also a narrative of 
extremely disturbed persons. It is a discourse of utter frustration and 
perturbed minds. Every sequence leaves a certain psychic trace which 
cannot be obliterated by all the physical violence that every one tries to 
subject the other to. There is also self-negation and torture. But the self 
never leaves. The ego predominates. The narrative moves from one crisis 
to another. It is not a discourse of resolutions. The underlying logic of 
physical or mental violence only pushes one sequence into another. As a 
cultural discourse, this narrative could be an attempt at a discursive 
confrontation of yogic upright steadfastness with the ways of the world, 
but not only Puran, all others who participate in this high drama of 
extreme psychic tensions, are always left high and dry in midair, with an 
acute sense of loneliness and frustration. The touch of the yogi Puran is 
not the touch that heals, it invariably ends up by inflicting another 
merciless sharp cut on the already open wound. 

Let us retrace some of the sequences in this psychic context. Raja 
Salwan had been yearning for the birth of a son, but as soon as the son is 
born, he is told to avoid him. He is not destined to see the face of his son 
for twelve years. The son-father confrontation is predicted by the 
astrologers. And, as far as Puran is concerned, he goes from one darkness 
to another. As Qadiryar puts it, the father imprisons his son on the day of 
his birth, on the day of rejoicing. By any reckoning, Salwan is not a 
happy man. During these twelve years of Puran' s confinement, Salwan 
indulges in another amorous adventure. He marries a low caste but 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 139 

extremely beautiful young girl, Luna. Like any rich and powerful person, 
the Raja is able to have a beautiful woman at home, notwithstanding his 
age. But the marriage is only physical. She is not his companion. He 
desires her. She possesses him, but he does not possess her. As such, both 
Salwan and Luna are two highly frustrated beings, locked in the 
intolerable physical stronghold of the palace. 

On the other hand, the ever prevailing absence of Puran must always 
haunt Salwan. The son is growing but the father is not destined to observe 
the developing child when he could have had an imprint on him of his 
fatherly affection. He would encounter only the young man with the 
frustration of twelve years of confinement. The son is already an adult 
when they first meet. And, obviously, they do not get along well. For 
minor enquiries of Salwan, Puran' s answers are curt. As Qadiryar puts it, 
Puran does not hesitate to argue with his father. The ministers advise the 
Raja not to mind such impertinent talk. Puran would grow. He is an 
adolescent. 

The encounter with Luna is a natural sequence. Luna is literally a 
captive of the wealthy king. His desire for her is obvious, but she cannot 
communicate with an old hog, however rich and powerful he may be. 
And, if there was any compulsion, the advent of Puran releases that. 
There is confrontation of social, conventional morality, dharma, and the 
psychic existence of the beings. Luna is courageous. Puran is steadfast. 
But there is a reason for Luna's will to cross the threshold. She has been a 
captive for a long time. Her human condition is miserable. She had 
probably been meditating on her destiny in the confinement of her palace. 
She is a wild bird in a cage. Puran seems to have opened the door, but 
apparently he shuts it back with a bang. The triangle of human 
relationship is, however, complete by now. Puran possesses Luna but 
Luna does not possess Puran. The relationships are misplaced. The 
desires crisscross. But, all is not lost. The logic of confrontation gets 
entangled. Each of them recognises his/her strength, and the desires and 
passions notwithstanding, they rely on the ill-gotten, false authority and 
possession. 



140 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 



Luna knows, she possesses the king. He is her prisoner mentally even 
though she is in his physical captivity. Rejected and insulted by Puran on 
the basis of conventional morality and collective consciousness, she 
challenges him on the basis of equally false and undesired hold on the 
Raja. When her existential being is challenged, she transforms herself into 
an ogress with the help of the man and his authority, she hates. On the 
other hand, condemned by the social customary authority of the 
astrologers and public morality, to first spend twelve years in a dungeon, 
and adopt a respectful behaviour towards those he has not grown up with, 
Puran accepts Luna's challenge, and is ready to die for his social dharma. 



Salwan' s mental state is no different. It is obvious from the 
Luna-Puran sequence that Salwan never really possessed Luna. His life 
with her could not have been very happy. For the first time probably, 
after this Luna-Puran quarrel, Luna seems to be the king's beloved queen, 
for whom obviously Salwan would do anything. In this absolutely false 
and concocted atmosphere of devotion and love, Luna sets out to practice 
treachery and revenge oh the one she really adores. 

The lopsided relationship between the father and the son cannot be 
easily ignored. The conventional, cultural morality obliges Salwan to 
consult the astrologers, and obey them whatever their prediction may be. 
And, what is their prediction? That the father and the son should have no 
contact with each other for twelve long years. But this non-contact is the 
most frustrating mental contact that has apparently already broken their 
nerves under extremely heavy strain of keeping themselves separate. This 
unusual situation of presence/absence is tortuous. This astrologic 
non-relation had already set in motion, a psychic relation, which burst 
into hatred at the very first occasion. 

During this period of non-relation with his son, and Puran' s mother, 
Icchran, Salwan had tried to establish another relation with Luna, mostly 
as a psychic cure. But the relationship was unnatural and unconventional. 
Luna was of low caste. She was too young to be his companion. 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 141 

This only frustrated him more. Mentally, Salwan was already a 
wreck when Luna suddenly appeals to him in the name of love, which 
always escaped him. He fell into the trap, and went ahead like a mad dog 
to cut the roots of his own family tree. Pur an 's mother, Icchran, tried to 
bring back the balance and normalcy missing in the royal household for 
such a long time, but to no avail. Puran's advent was the only element 
that could normally harmonise the extremely unbalanced psychic situation 
of the entire family. But the backlog of heightened tensions was too 
powerful to let these dramatis personae stop, look, and, think. They were 
all carried away by the hurricane of passions against their own will, 
against their own best judgement. 

And what about Puran, who is being brought up in a dungeon without 
mother and father? He knows, his father is the king, and he would one 
day inherit his throne, but he cannot have any contact with him. It is one 
thing for a child to be an orphan, and quite another to be very near, 
almost in the presence, close vicinity, of the parents, and yet to be 
without them. In this most inhuman situation imposed by public norm of 
the sacred texts of astrology, which are supposed to govern the lives of 
men, no wonder, Puran grows into a little monster. From twelve years of 
seclusion and privation, he is suddenly, without any preparation 
whatsoever, thrown into a world of human contact : confrontation with 
the authority of the father-king, and the infatuation of the young 
step-mother-queen. And, both these forced, sudden relations are 
immediately transformed into non-relations. In such a situation, violence 
was the only logical means of exit. In this mad house of extreme 
disequilibrium, nothing short of execution of Puran could pretend to 
resolve the problematics of the existentially blocked enclosure. 

And, what a violence it is? Both Salwan and Luna are pushing their 
beings along the downhill. Puran who would perpetuate the House of 
Salwan, Puran whom Luna wants to possess, is sacrificed at the altar of 
passionate non-existence. In one way, it is the supreme sacrifice for both 
of them. Blinded by the tempestuous nerves of revenge, they temporarily 
seem to forget their very existence. Puran is Icchran' s son. It is normal 
for her to plead for his life. But Salwan-Luna-Puran triangle brings about 



142 777<? Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

a certain upheaval in the relational accord. Sal wan loves Luna, who loves 
Puran. The cycle of psychic possession is obviously in the reverse order. 
Puran possesses Luna, who possesses Salwan. The one on whom you 
have authority is not the one you love. However, the relation is 
transparent, and none is deceived. One can only torture one's most loved 
one. And, as far as the resistance is concerned, which is epitomised in the 
discourse by the most resolute stand of Puran, it can emanate only from 
the being who is at the crossroads of all the three protagonists. Naturally, 
Puran is the nucleus. He is the nerve centre. It is he who has disturbed the 
equilibrium, however tangible it was, hence he must quit. 

The punishment administered to Puran by Salwan' s executioners is in 
consonance with the turbulent situation he has gone through. He is not 
killed. Only his hands and feet are cut, and he is hung in the darkness of 
the deserted well. From the darkness of the womb, he was thrown into the 
darkness of the dungeon as a result of his contact with the sacred books of 
his culture. Now, from the dungeon, he goes to the darkness of the well 
in complete immobility. In the dungeon also, he was immobile. He was 
mentally aware of the presence of his parents and the world around, but 
following the dictates of public morality, he was not allowed to move. 
After the jolts of the contacts with his father, and a woman, the two poles 
of human relationship, he is condemned to an immobility, where his body 
and mind are intact, to meditate on his destiny, his non-relations as well 
as his relations. The world is still around. Salwan and Luna are alive 
outside the well. Nothing could obviously be more tormenting than this 
absolute helplessness caused by his own upright defence of public 
morality. 

In this immobility, Puran must reflect upon his fleeting but most 
consequential contact. He would never forget Luna. He would never 
forgive Salwan. Guru Gorakh Nath would come and heal the physical 
wounds, but these psychic wounds will never be healed. Each turn in the 
logical sequence of the discourse will only increase the severity of the 
pain which would remain hidden and unspoken until the last encounter 
with Luna and Salwan, when the scores are settled, when these 
non-relations come in violent confrontation. 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 143 



The seclusion, darkness, and the immobility in the deserted well is 
far more severe and acute than the darkness of the dungeon. In the 
dungeon, Puran was a child. He was deprived of his parents, but he had 
had the company of his servants and counsellors, who helped him grow 
and acquire the necessary human awareness. In the deserted well, Puran is 
an adult. He has had a contact with sex, the most existential ingredient of 
manhood, and a confrontation with the authority of his father, an 
obligatory step in the development of individual consciousness. It is with 
this confrontation that the psychic umbilical cord is broken. Puran is now 
on his own. He must face the world without, and the world within, all 
alone. For the first confrontation, he made use of the cudgels of collective 
consciousness, now he must reflect upon the consequences of using this 
collective consciousness to assert and realise the urges of his individual 
consciousness. The world within the deserted well, and the world 
without, are in a strange contact. The extreme physical immobility, and 
unfettered imaginative, individual conscious psychic flights are in perfect 
harmony. The deserted well represents both the dark fathomless 
prison-hole, and the absolute freedom of mind. 

The deserted well is also the symbol of nature as opposed to culture. 
Rejected and humiliated by culture, Puran finds himself in the world of 
wild plants and birds of the jungle. But it is not the traditional open free 
world of nature. Puran has the freedom of a prisoner. He is immobile. 
This is the gift of culture. His immobility is caused by human 
intervention. It is dictated by the norms of social consciousness. But in 
this immobility of cultural compunctions, he is the only witness to the 
wild nature around. 

He observes the wild growth of plants. He watches the nesting of the 
birds, their births and their deaths, their amorous plays and their struggle 
for survival. In many ways, Puran is initiated into the order of nature 
which is no less ruthless than the one he has just gone through in the 
intrigues of the kingdom. This nursery school of nature is just the 
opposite of the school of the dungeon which was controlled by all the 
paraphernalia of culture. The contrast is extreme. In the dungeon, Puran 



144 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

was never alone. No doubt, it was a darkness of deprivation, but it was 
not really the solitary confinement he is now undergoing. In the deserted 
well, the adult Puran meditates on honour and revenge, individual sexual 
urges and the taboos of the society. As such, even before he encounters 
Guru Gorakh Nath, Puran has been initiated into the individualistic 
mysteries of yogic experience. It is here that Puran acquires the power of 
patience and meditation. It is in the solitary confinement of nature that 
Puran acquires new insights into the truth of culture. But obviously, this 
acquisition reinforces and reintegrates the already highly individualistic, 
and as it happens, highly egocentric, tendencies in the psychic 
comportment of Puran. This contact with nature is not complementary to 
cultural evolution, it is in direct contradistinction to the ways and norms 
of ordinary behaviour. It certainly heightens the velocity of the 
confrontation of individual and collective consciousness. Like the twelve 
years of the dungeon, the twelve years of the deserted well is again a 
preparatory period, which both nurses and nourishes the psychic wounds 
inflicted by culture. 

Gorakh Nath restores the limbs of Puran and brings him back to 
normal human condition. He asks him to go to Sialkot to see his parents, 
but Puran refuses. He is not yet mentally ready to face his adversaries, 
and pleads to be initiated into the Order of yoga. Guru Gorakh Nath 
accepts him in his fraternity and converts him to the yogic discipline. This 
step takes Puran still farther from the profane life and personal ambitions. 
The Order of yoga of Gorakh Nath requires extreme austerity and 
negation of all human impulses. In the beginning, Puran was a prisoner of 
public morality. Now, he is in the grip of even stronger norms of 
religious discipline. Gorakh preaches avoidance of all that is worldly, all 
that satisfies normal human appetite of sex and hunger. He is to be a 
mendicant for whom this world of senses does not exist. He has to follow 
the dictates of the highest dharma. As the disciple of Gorakh Nath, Puran 
has to lead a life under far more severe constraints than when he was a 
prince within the confines of public moral order. 

And, yet he has to live in this world of flesh and ambition. As a 
mendicant, he is supposed to go to the city to beg for alms. There is a 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 145 

clear distinction and opposition between the monastic life outside the city, 
and the profane life of the city, but both are related. The yogi must live 
away from the city but must depend on it for his physical existence. There 
is no cohabitation of the physical and the spiritual but both are in 
consonance. Both must come in contact with each other. Both must 
confront their respective positions in complementary needs but 
diametrically opposed ways and ideals of life. 

The co-disciples of Puran tell him to go to the palace of princess 
Sundran for alms. They inform him that she never descends from her 
apartments and sends only her maidservants. 

No mendicant of the Order of Gorakh Nath has ever been able to see 
her. They would be surprised if he, who claims to be a descendant of the 
mighty kings of Sialkot, can oblige princess Sundran to come down to his 
presence. And unwittingly, Puran follows their advice, and leaves for 
Sundran' s palace with the blessings of his Guru. 

At the palace, the inevitable happens. The maidservant of Sundran 
offers alms to Puran which he duly refuses, and insists on the audience of 
Sundran. The princess is furious, but relents as she listens to the 
description of the handsome figure of the new yogi. She invites him in. 
Puran resolutely refuses to cross the threshold. He was obliged by his 
Order to come as far as the gate of the palace, but beyond that he would 
not budge. He is of noble lineage. In other words, he is of the palace, but 
bound by the constraints of his Order, he cannot cross the threshold of the 
palace. 

Princess Sundran is also caught in the same dilemma. She is not only 
of the palace, but she also leads the life of the palace. She is willing to 
meet Puran, the prince, but not Puran, the yogi. If she steps out into the 
world of Puran, she looses her identity, and then the meeting is of no 
consequence to her. However, as expected, Puran is steadfast in his role 
of a mendicant, Sundran hesitatingly condescends. She overlaids Puran 
with the gifts of pearls and diamonds. Puran is yet a novice. He does not 
realise the significance of these precious stones. These are not the usual 



1 46 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

offerings to an ordinary mendicant. These riches are the gifts of the 
palace to a prince, who is only disguised as a yogi. When Guru Gorakh 
Nath refuses to accept these glittering objects of the profane world, 
Sundran plays another trick. She prepares the choicest dishes of the House 
of princess Sundran and accompanies Puran to the Dera of Guru Gorakh 
Nath. 

The Guru is highly pleased at such a devotion of the princess, and 
grants her a wish. Sundran immediately cashes on the sacred promise, and 
gets Puran as her award. This is too much and too sudden for Puran. The 
Guru prepares him for renunciation and discipline, and at the first 
opportunity, thrusts him into the very illusory world, he commands him 
to avoid. Puran is compelled to move from one human condition to 
another, either by the force of public morality, or by the discipline of the 
highest religious Order. And, as expected, he reacts violently. No sooner 
than he is at the palace, he slips away, leaving Sundran high and dry, in 
the midst of her most ecstatic moment. No wonder, she succumbs to this 
terrible grief. 

The same poet Qadiryar, who had blamed Luna for treachery and 
deceit, cannot help compose some of the most beautiful verses of his 
poem, describing the anguish of Sundran. Who is to blame for this tragic 
end? In the case of Luna, one could talk of the mother-son intrigue, the 
infatuated woman and the dutiful son, but no such accusation could be 
placed at the conduct of Sundran. Princess Sundran was enticed by the 
yogi Puran, however unconsciously it might have been. In the beginning, 
she had refused to descend from her guarded palace, but Puran had 
insisted on her audience. Did he want to prove to his comrade disciples 
that he was, after all, the prince-yogi, he had claimed to be, and princess 
Sundran could not refuse him his due place? 

Any way, once they met, they did not want to cross the threshold of 
the palace. In other words, they refused to go to each other's world. And, 
yet none of them could resist. The first step, however, reluctantly it may 
have been, was taken by Puran. It is he who goes to Sundran' s palace. No 
doubt, at the threshold, there was hesitation. The yogic discipline 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 147 

reminded him of the higher obligations. But, Sundran was already there. 
The two beings were not only involved in a human encounter, it was also 
a confrontation of two egocentric attitudes. Sundran tries to resolve the 
dilemma by following Puran, but as Qadiryar puts it in one of the most 
beautiful lines of his narrative, Puran leads Sundran away with the finger 
of his charm. 

Qadaryar Ice challia sudra nu 
Puran husan di ugli laeke jT 

And, whatever be the pretensions of the yogic Order, the yogi Puran, 
as described here by Qadiryar and remembered ever since by the Punjabi 
consciousness, is the fantasmatic romantic hero, who is handsome but 
unfaithful, who is austere and obdurate, who deceives the innocent 
princess. The yogis are unreliable, they are stone-hearted. Sundran warns 
all other girls to beware of these mendicants who loot young hearts and 
care not for their anguish. The whole town cries for her misfortune. 
When Sundran falls from the palace, the walls of the city are blackened, 
and the populace wails for the beautiful princess, who has been betrayed. 
Puran entered the city of beauty and happiness, he left it deserted and 
desolate. 

te tutha ha ranie mag maitho 
duji war kiha aje hce i wela 
char kut de bag bahar rnewe 
amrit phal khaT rakkhiyad wela 
rani sudra uthke nazar kit! 
puran bhagat hce amrit phal kela 

zal zara na takat rahi tan wich 

rani gaodi gama de git loko 

mce bhulli ha tusa na hor koi 

laiojogia nal naprit loko 
jagal gae na baore siidra nu 
jogi nahije kise de mit loko 



148 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

Before Puran reaches the Dera, the news of the death of Sundran had 
already reached Gorakh Nath, who apparently did not approve of his 
disciple's behaviour. Perhaps he had conceived of a more prolonged 
affair. It could be a test of a yogi, to both live with the world of passion, 
and to avoid it, as it is quite usual in the rites of initiation. But Puran was 
made of another clay. Once he was told to conform to certain austerities, 
once he had taken certain vows, he was not going to let anything slip 
through his fingers. In any case, the monster of the dungeon and the 
deserted well was only further hardened by the yogic ordeals. There could 
be no let up in such a mind. And, the greatest shock of Puran' s life was 
that this desertion of Sundran was disapproved by Gorakh Nath. There 
was no formal remonstration. Either Gorakh considers Puran now ripe 
enough for the final encounter with the world, or he is scared of this 
monster of a yogi, who has in a way, outstretched even the limits of 
Gorakh Nath's own yogic Order. Whatever the cultural or existential 
explanation may be, there is no more any place for Puran in the Dera of 
Gorakh Nath. He is too much for that assembly of ordinary mendicants. 
Thus shocked and baffled, Puran obeys his Guru, and leaves for Sialkot. 

One can well imagine the predicament of Puran. He is being shuttled 
from one place to another. In each encounter, he leaves nothing but 
disaster. Either he is tortured, or some one else suffers because of his 
supposedly spiritual ideals. And, what obviously must unnerve him most, 
is that even his own Guru did not take kindly to his extreme posture. The 
sequences of events follow each other with such rapidity that he hardly 
has time to breathe. In the Dera of Guru Gorakh Nath, he seemed to have 
realised the ideal of his life. His past behavioural pattern was just the stuff 
that was needed for such an ideal, but this also let him down. Before he 
could adjust to this new way of life, he had already crossed its limits. 
Before Sundran, the predicament was whether or not to cross the 
threshold of the palace. Personally, for him, it was not a difficult step. He 
simply followed the rules of the book, but he never imagined the 
consequences. He never, even once, stopped to think of Sundran as a 
person. The other disciples taunted him to oblige the princess to descend 
from her palace. His charm and his steadfastness combined with his noble 
lineage could easily achieve that. But, he was not mentally prepared to 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 149 

handle the psychic predicament of Sundran. It was quite easy to stand to 
the passion of Luna. The collective consciousness supported him all the 
way through. But the sentiments of princess Sundran were of different 
order. 

Broken and disheartened by the farewell gesture of his Guru, Puran 
follows the road to Sialkot. When Raja Salwan asks the yogi Puran for the 
boon of a son, for no child plays in his compound, and his palace is 
deserted, Puran would have wondered on the strange opposition of the 
deserted well and the deserted palace. Apparently, where the son Puran 
is, there is life, where he is not, there is desert. But this was not so, not 
long ago. He was chased from the palace like plague, and thrown into the 
deserted well. Was the well in the wilderness, after all, not such a 
deserted place? Puran had taken the light of the House of Salwan with 
him, and had left behind, in spite of his supposed act of aggression, 
disobedience, and impertinence, the palace all deserted. The severest of 
punishments had after all satisfied none. Luna must have been tormented 
both for the lack of a child, and due to her guilty conscience, for she lost 
both her beloved, and her household. Her life with Salwan even before 
was not a happy one. The little encounter with Puran left her completely 
shattered. Salwan had waited for twelve long years to see his son. Within 
a day, he transformed frustration into desperation. The angry and jealous 
Salwan had acted in a hurry. It had left him completely empty and 
deserted. It was not just any palace, but Salwan' s palace, which was like a 
desert. And, the cruelty of the situation is that he himself, however 
justifiable his act may be, is responsible for his tortuous state of mind. 

The operation continues. Puran inflicts another cut to the wound he 
had just opened. He asks Luna to reveal the truth of the incident, if she 
desires a son to her. Luna bursts forth. The truth cannot be hidden from 
the yogi. What was personal torment until now becomes a public affair. 
For the last twelve years, she must have been tortured for the false 
accusation, which served no purpose, which did not yield any harmony in 
the Luna-Salwan relation. There was none before. Once Puran had 
destabilised whatever false conjugal union there was between husband and 
wife, there could not be any peace in the aftermath of the bloody incident. 



1 50 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 



Now, that the truth is revealed, Salwan is furious. The triangle is again 
complete, but the roles are reversed. Salwan would have none of Luna, 
but Puran counsels patience. It was not her fault. She did what she could, 
whatever her impulse commanded her to do. But Salwan, yes, his father, 
Salwan, did what no father had done ever before. Anyway, he gives him a 
grain of rice, the symbol of fertility, with which Luna would conceive, 
and give birth to a mighty prince. 

Salwan must now keep his unfaithful wife, and lead a life of utter 
frustration. Until now, their marriage had not been consummated. The 
grain of rice of Puran would help the undesired union, and a son will be 
born, naturally a son-brother to Puran. Indirectly Luna has also achieved 
what she longed for. The child of Luna will be due to yogi Puran 's 
blessing. He will be born, fertilised by the grain of Puran. There is 
nothing that Salwan can do about it. In anger, he had gotten rid of his 
rival. In helplessness, he has to accept all in utter humiliation and 
disgrace. When the truth was not revealed, there was emptiness in the 
compound, and the palace was deserted. When the truth is revealed, the 
compound will be filled with the laughter of a child and the palace will 
abound with life, but this laughter and this life will not be due to Salwan. 
He will now be a ghost in the resounding environment of the high walls of 
the palace. 

When Puran' s identity is revealed, Salwan asks his son to inherit his 
throne and bring light to the dark house of his father. Puran refuses flatly: 
if you cannot govern your kingdom, let it go to the dogs, I would have 
none of it. For all these years, I have suffered the weight of tormenting 
memories. Only God knows what I have borne. I will have none of you or 
your belongings. I am a yogi. I must go. 

But what kind of a yogi he really is? A yogi, who has been nursing 
his wounds, a yogi who has upheld the norms of the highest exigencies of 
his Order, a yogi who has been completely dehumanised, a yogi who has 
suffered, and who now must make every one suffer for ever and ever 
more. The resolution to the crisis of the House of Salwan prescribed by 
Puran inflicts a permanent wound which will simmer and squeeze at the 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 1 5 1 

slightest movement, and continue to increase progressively in the severity 
of its pain. His blessings of a son to Luna includes the curse that like his 
mother, Icchran, Luna too would be tormented when her son would leave 
her. He actually does in the second sequence of the narrative, not 
discussed here. 

Puran's meeting with his mother, Icchran, is the only gentle and 
humane episode in the whole narrative, but it becomes a side affair in the 
general context of the sequences of relationships. In any case, it does not 
deter Puran from the path of psychic confrontations that he seems to have 
chosen for himself. 

IV 

This analysis of the sequences of the legend of Puran follows the 
constituting process of the narrative. It is quite different from the usual 
interpretations which move either along the collective social norms, as is 
the case with the poet Qadiryar himself, whose version is our point of 
departure, or the conditioning factors of our socio-economic course of 
history. All these factors have to be taken into account by any critic who 
ventures into such an enterprise, but for us, a cultural myth or a legend is 
primarily a cultural discourse, whose logic is not always apparent at the 
manifest discursive level. 



The creative process is necessarily a semiotic process. The signs and 
symbols which constitute a given narrative represent, not only the 
traditional values attached to them, but they also derive their significance 
from the mutual interaction they have with each other. One can always 
condemn or approve a given act on the basis of the so-called public 
morality or collective consciousness, but this collective consciousness is 
constantly and obligatorily in confrontation with individual consciousness. 
And, this is precisely the motive force which brings about transformation. 

Social change is inherent in the very constitution of the society. A 
social structure is never in complete harmony. Its different constituents 



1 52 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

are invariably in a certain composition of disequilibrium, which needs to 
be deciphered, not only at certain specific points, but also in an entire 
framework. Every human impulse must, by definition, have a psychic 
history. One cannot just brush aside the confinement of a child to a 
dungeon on the basis of an astrologic prediction without properly 
analysing its possible repercussions. After all, Puran could not have acted 
the way he did, if this confinement had not taken place. If the little Puran 
had been playing in the garden of Salwan, he may not have even married 
again. Secondly, how far it is psychologically legitimate to expect of a 
child to have respectful attitude towards his stepmother? And, inversely, 
is it really natural for a young stepmother to consider another's child as 
her own? In any case, how can one expect normal public behaviour from 
a person who has been imprisoned for twelve years, who has grown up 
without the sight of his parents, whose psyche has developed under the 
curse of the traditional astrology? And, above all, what does it really 
mean that father and son shall not behold each other for twelve long 
years? The confrontation of destinies is writ large on the entire canvas of 
the painting, that is being slowly constituted, but whose contours are laid 
down on the very first day. 

A cultural discourse is not a cultural resolution. It is an attempt to 
solve the riddle of human condition in the form of another riddle. What 
cannot be stated or explained in simple terms, in the form of language, is 
presented in the form of a semiotic constitution. As such, there are always 
several interpretations. After all, it is not the only legend of the culture. It 
is one of the several attempts at resolving the riddle of human condition 
which remains always an enigma in the general context of human creative 
activity of a given people. This is really the creative process. Man never 
stops constituting the logical sequences of his impulses. The process of 
decomposition is not only at the individual analytical level of 
comprehension, the collective consciousness also constantly participates in 
the continuous process of pulsational forces, which give rise to the 
evolutionary historical configurations. 

The decomposition of a human situation involves the decomposition 
of a the psychic comportments which constitute a given personality. The 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 1 53 

interaction is at psychic level. The psychic constitution of a being is due 
to the commutative process which begins from the very beginning. 

This is why once Puran is condemned to the darkness and deprivation 
of his parents in the dungeon, and the parents are deprived of the laughter 
of the little child, the psychic compunctions, which will lead them from 
one sequence to another, are the logical consequences of the entire 
narrative. When Gorakh Nath restores the hands and feet of Puran and 
admits him to his fraternity, he should have known what was at stake. 
Puran was no ordinary disciple. He will not only learn and excel in the 
austere discipline of yoga, he would also carry with him, the twelve years 
of the dungeon, the confrontation with Luna and Salwan, and the 
immobility of the deserted well, into the traditional path of yogic 
constraints. One thing follows another. The interaction of impulses is 
double-edged. It is not possible for the human constitution of Puran to 
forget his contact with Luna, the only woman of his life, and the 
immediate consequential contact with the jealousy and the wrath of his 
father, Salwan. He had twelve long years to meditate on his human 
condition in the solitude of the deserted well. And, by the time he goes 
back to Luna, a logical compulsion and a sentimental journey back into 
the depths of his memory, he had another, but quite different, contact 
with a woman, in the person of Sundran. In the case of the first 
confrontation, he was supposedly the victim, at least at the physical level, 
if one ignores the tormented vacillations of Luna. In the latter case, the 
situation is of another order. It is Sundran who suffers physically, but 
how can one ignore the consequential fact that if Guru Gorakh Nath, the 
guardian of public morality and religious sanctions, was shaken at the 
demise of Sundran, Puran could not possibly escape the psychic fall-out 
from this tragic Sundran-Puran contact. Luna obviously did not know all 
this. In her psychic comportment, there is only the first confrontation and 
the following execution of Puran. No doubt, she also nursed her wound 
for a long time, but this period at Sialkot refers only to the deserted 
palace. It is bereft of the high drama that is now being played elsewhere. 
The nucleus is Puran. His scene of action changes place. The rest of the 
dramatis personae must wait and suffer until he comes back. But he is no 
more the same Puran that now Salwan and Luna meet. No doubt, he 



1 54 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 

probes the past. He makes them swallow the bitter pill of the truth of the 
earlier incident. He is revengeful and cruel. But his cruelty is now 
cold-blooded. He does no more act on the impulse of the moment. His 
memory is surcharged with other deeper cuts, which he is obviously not 
willing to share with any one 

If one wants to come to this conclusion for the sake of argument, 
Puran emerges from this saga of internecine psychic warfare in the form 
of a new yogi, who perhaps not only outstretches the traditional limits of 
yoga, but also surpasses his Guru Gorakh Nath. This is also, of course, 
the only way, the tradition can continue in the dynamic confrontations of 
the discipline. The psychic monster of the darkness of the dungeon, 
hardened by the immobility of the deserted well, becomes a monster of a 
yogi before whom even Guru Gorakh Nath must bow in reverence. After 
all, in the normal process, there is always an inbuilt elasticity of 
adjustment in the contours of public morality, collective consciousness, 
and the highest ideals of spiritual austerity. No one really believes in their 
absolute adherence. And, here comes Puran, who not only follows them 
like the rules of a text-book, he far surpasses them in their uttermost outer 
limits. 

This argument leads us to a blind alley. Do we then approve of 
Puran' s reactions in each confrontation, and condemn and discard all 
other human impulses as low and unworthy of our cultural behaviour? 
Obviously not. If it were so, there would not have been this legend. This 
legend, like all legends, like all creatively constituted discourses, began 
with a certain problematics, it untied certain knots, but in the process of 
successive resolutions, constituted innumerable other riddles, which the 
cultural creative faculty will continue to decompose and recompose ever 
after. 

The psychic imbalance of Puran is being restored by two women. The 
one is, of course, his mother, Icchran. The other is Sundran. Luna is 
responsible for the first major emotional disequilibrium, but she 
neutralises the effect with the physical torture that Puran is subjected to. 
In the case of Sundran, the situation is different. Not only, it is Puran who 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 155 

insists on her audience in the first place, it is Sundran who tortures herself 
for his sake. She makes the supreme sacrifice of her life. When Luna 
meets Puran for the second time, he is a grief-stricken yogi. Towards 
Luna and Salwan he has the sentiments of revenge. A great wrong was 
done to him. He can justify his act. The entire cultural consciousness 
supports him, but no matter what justification he probably had in the 
beginning, in the initial response of Sundran, he cannot blame the one 
who is no more, who had de-existentialised herself, who has apparently 
freed Puran of her obstacle. But what is not manifest is immanent. Since 
he cannot react to Sundran, he is psychologically immobile, and in this 
immobility, neither nature nor culture will help him. He must suffer her 
memory forever. Her violence to herself has obviously cleansed her of all 
human impurity. If one ventures to say at this stage of the analysis, 
Sundran' s sacrifice humanised the austere disciple of Gorakh. What the 
Guru could not do, she did. And, the Guru was not so wrong, after all. It 
is he who so willingly gives the gift of Puran to Sundran. Does it refer to 
one of the yogic precepts that woman is the greatest teacher of man? 

The semiotic system of the legend seems to have been constituted of 
two main signs : distance and memory. The distance involves both space 
and time. The antagonists are separated in the dungeon and the palace or 
the deserted well and the palace, but this separation is never forgotten. 
Each actor of this drama is a prisoner, both physically and mentally. The 
distanciation gives them time to think of oneself and the other at the same 
time. Since one cannot forget the other, the other who is present next 
door, who is planning and scheming, the other who is either a tyrant or a 
victim, the other who is there in the compulsion of the verdict, whose 
confrontation is also a foregone conclusion. As each period of forced 
separation is very clearly demarcated, one is existentially, completely, 
immobile. There is always the other end of the distance and the time. In 
other words, in this distance, the memory of the other is the immobilising 
factor. One is never really free even in solitude. 

The spatial distance is a period of introspection, but the deep traces of 
the psychic wounds inflicted by the other hinder the spiritual progress, if 
one dare use this expression in this context. However, one cannot escape 



156 The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 



this dilemma. After all, the hero is supposed to be a yogi or a bhakta, the 
one who should ponder over the absolute. The logical sequences of the 
narrative do not leave any door for a spiritual exit. Puran, as well as all 
the others, are bound to each other by the passions of love, hatred and 
revenge; they twist and turn each other's destiny. The apparent solution 
that the legend tries to provide is the deliberate separation of the 
opposites. The astrologers knew that the father and the son would collide, 
so the best way to avoid confrontation was to separate them. This is a 
normal judicial practice. The collective tradition could not foresee the 
aftermath of the slow cooking fire of twelve years. Fire is the image that 
Qadiryar uses again and again. When Luna meets Puran, she is consumed 
by the fire of sexual passion. When Salwan listens to the false story of 
Puran 's advances, he is burnt with the fire of anger. Puran is the only one 
who never lets the flame of his inner fire emerge in the physical world. 
He controls his fire. This is the role of the yogi. But his fire burns slowly 
and surely, and his victims find no exit ever. Sundran is the only one who 
outwits Puran. She is his victim, but she is not revengeful in the ordinary 
sense of the term. She turns inwards, tortures herself, and quits. For 
once, both the arcs of distance and the memory of the other, present on 
the other side of the wall, are broken. Puran is freed of this constraint 
which helped him constitute his psychic path until now. He can go back to 
Salwan and Luna, and react. But no such thing is possible for Sundran. 
She is gone. Her absence is irretrievable. 

The immobilities of the dungeon and the deserted well were 
existentially controlled immobilities. They were within the grasp of 
Puran' s psychic vision. There was always another end to it. This radical 
disappearance of the Other is a new phenomenon in the spiritual culture of 
Puran, the disciple of the great yogi, Guru Gorakh Nath. Hence, there are 
two types of distances in this legend : the distance of the dungeon and the 
deserted well, which is marked, and, the distance of the physical 
annihilation of Sundran, which is unmarked. Puran was physically 
surrounded by a certain configuration in the former case. He was still a 
novice. The mental training of the future yogi was controlled, it followed 
certain specific contours. Now, he has acquired the maturity of a pilgrim. 
He has been freed of all collective constraints, he can wander in the 



The Human Condition in Pur an Bhagat 157 

wilderness of the jungle, or in the vast spaces of the civilised world, he 
will always be existentially immobile. This newly acquired freedom will 
be far more difficult to keep within the spiritual grasp of the yogi Puran. 
But now he has reached a certain stage of mental conceptualisation that he 
does not need the other end of the spatial distance. He frees himself even 
of the sentimental journey into the depths of his fathomless memory. He 
is able to existentially dominate the situation, and with a jerk, he breaks 
the last thread of the umbilical chord that still bound him with the world 
around. Now, he must be ready to face the world within.